Canada Names First-Ever Open Banking Lead

March 24, 2022
Canada has picked former digital banking director Abraham Tachjian to help set up the country’s open banking regime, which is planned to launch next January.

Canada has picked former digital banking director Abraham Tachjian to help set up the country’s open banking regime, which is planned to launch next January.

The long-awaited move charges Tachjian with advancing the design and early implementation of an open banking system and is intended to help Canada achieve its goal of launching its new regime by January 2023.

There are more than 4m Canadians who are currently using some sort of open banking-style services, such as personal budget planners, robo-advisors and non-traditional lending, via screen scraping.

These arrangements require people to share their banking login credentials, and are considered to be unsecure, inefficient, unregulated and an unreliable method of data sharing.

With the growth of fintech services and with a view to strengthening and modernizing the financial services sector, Canada set up an Advisory Committee on Open Banking in 2018 to conduct a review into “the merits of open banking.”

This exercise concluded with the publication of a report last August, in which the committee made a number of recommendations to the government on how to modernize the Canadian financial services sector and implement a secure open banking system.

“As an immediate first step, the government should appoint an open banking lead, with a mandate from the government and accountable to the deputy minister at finance Canada,” the report said.

Despite the recommendation, the government has not named an open banking lead up until now, which provoked criticism from industry players.

In a mid-March letter, a group of fintech innovators said it “is disappointing to see further indications from the federal government that this file is being left to gather dust.”

“[It] has been 222 days since the report was released, and we still do not know when the government’s open banking lead will be named or if the government plans to implement all recommendations from the advisory committee’s report,” the group said.

Tachjian’s appointment is now the first move since the release of the report towards the implementation of Canada’s open banking plans.

“This is an important next step in the process of implementing the Advisory Committee’s recommendations, in order to convene stakeholders to design and implement the foundational elements of an open banking system that benefits both Canadians and businesses. I wish to congratulate Mr. Tachjian on his new role,” said Randy Boissonnault, minister of tourism and associate minister of finance.

As open banking lead, Tachjian will be required to engage stakeholders to develop an accreditation framework, a common set of rules, and technical standards for an open banking system.

He will also provide advice to the government on the future ongoing administration of a system of open banking.

The lead will report to the deputy minister of finance and would be supported by a secretariat within the Department of Finance and external experts.

Tachjian currently serves as a director in the financial services practice at PwC Canada. In this role, he supported the work of the Advisory Committee on Open Banking.

Prior to that, he helped found Mox Bank, a new digital bank in Hong Kong, and was director of digital banking at Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore.

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