Dean Velentzas

Head of Policy and Partnerships

Op-Ed by Dean Velentzas, Head of Policy

This month, the Canadian Lenders Association was invited to attend the Canadian Open Banking Expo, a full-day conference held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, Canada. With over 60 industry headliners from around the world, predominantly North America, the event sought to address pressing questions regarding the future of open banking.

The conference sparked discussions on various critical matters. Would we be able to overcome the sluggish start to implementation and make substantial progress? Are regulatory obstacles going to hinder our advancement? Will traditional banks fully embrace the concept of an open environment? And is there a genuine opportunity for financial gains this year?

Unfortunately, the government has left many of these questions unanswered, as open banking was not mentioned in Budget 2023. This has led fintech executives to grow increasingly skeptical about the timeline for delivery. While working groups and steering committees are actively developing a secure open banking framework, progress has been slow.

Initially, there were high hopes for the launch of the first phase of open banking in January 2023, as indicated in the final report of the advisory committee on open banking. However, achieving this target date seems increasingly unlikely. Consequently, Canada’s fintechs eagerly await a tangible framework that will enable a unique “Made-in Canada” approach to open banking. This uncertainty raises a fundamental question: Will we ever reach our intended destination?

I was ready to find out!

Galvanized and full of anticipation, I entered the conference with high hopes. I embarked on a journey down one of the longest escalators I’ve ever encountered, feeling a mix of excitement and intrigue. Once I snagged my name tag, I opened the Open Banking Expo app to plan my schedule and identify the most relevant panels. Similar to the CLA’s networking app used for our in-person events, I was able to navigate through the list of attendees, schedule meetings, and add sessions to my personalized agenda.

The longest escalator descent in conference history.

The first thought-provoking session I attended featured EQ Bank’s President and CEO, and member of the CLA, Andrew Moor. During his address, he emphasized the transformative potential of open banking in defining personal rights and freedoms in our digital society. He skillfully connected the dots between Canadian bankers, nation-building, and guiding principles. It was fascinating to gain insights from an esteemed banker’s perspective on the collaborative efforts required within the financial services ecosystem to achieve the common goal of open finance.

Next, I ventured into the vibrant networking space, filled with familiar CLA colleagues and prospective event collaborators. Amidst the lively atmosphere, I crossed paths with Pat Casullo, a cherished friend from Portfolio+. We excitedly discussed our upcoming webinar collaboration on the “Alternative Retirement Plan,” scheduled for September 21st. After grabbing some much-appreciated Portfolio+ swag, I made my way to the designated networking space for my pre-booked meetings.  

Two cheerful chaps embracing premium banking software solutions!

After several exciting meetings, with individuals like Sabena Sandhu from the CCUA and Abdi Hersi from Wealthsimple, I returned to the main auditorium for a fresh dose of industry insights. A panel that truly stood out in the afternoon was focused on “Meeting the Unique Needs of SMBs with Open Banking.” The CLA’s SMB Roundtable has been leading the way in addressing the specific requirements of SMB lenders, making this discussion especially relevant. This panel included David Hooper (VP, Open Banking & Payments at CGI), Cyrielle Chiron (SVP, PProduct Strategy & Innovation at Peoples Group), Victoria Clark (AVP, Payments at ATB Financial), Paul-Emile McNab (VP Business Development at the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business), and Corinne Pohlmann (SVP, National Affairs and Partnership at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business). The panel brilliantly dissected strategies to cater to the distinctive demands of the SMB market, providing value-enhancing, budget-friendly solutions that would empower Canada’s small business owners.

CLA Board Member Cyrielle Chiron was a shining star in this panel! 

As the day drew to a close, I treated myself to a special Flinks latte, a delicious blend that perfectly matched the lively atmosphere. And to add to the excitement, I had the chance to channel my inner barista and expertly pour my own oat milk.

Open banking and oat milk make a brew-tiful pair 

Reflecting on the Open Banking Expo, it was a splendid occasion to mingle with familiar faces, hear tales of resilience amidst economic downturns, and savor some truly remarkable lattes. Open banking may have its twists and turns, but it was nice to see everyone embracing the journey together! 

Join me at future CLA events like the CLA’s Sustainable Finance Summit on September 6th at the EY Tower, where we will discuss a range of subjects like: 

  • The regulatory landscape of sustainable finance and how new mandates will impact the sector.
  • Expert-led strategies around the Global GHG Accounting and Reporting Standards for the Financial Industry (PCAF).
  • The evolving landscape of green mortgages and their role in promoting energy efficiency and sustainability. 

And if you’re more interested in garnering insights about the future of finance, join me at the CLA’s Lenders Summit on November 1st, where you can network with over 500 industry executives, foster long-term partnerships, and learn about best practices in lending.