Financial inclusion: a collective responsibility

04 March 2024 by National Bank La Presse
Two leaders discussing the importance of Financial Inclusion

Corporate social engagement should be handled differently from donations and sponsorships alone. "Demonstrating business awareness requires paying careful attention to elements that may seem intangible at first glance, such as financial inclusion," says Debby Cordeiro, Senior Vice-President, Public Affairs and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) at National Bank. Here's how businesses can contribute to collective wealth.

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Financial inclusion as a mirror of society

Financial inclusion takes many forms, including universal access to affordable, useful, and adaptable banking products and services. It requires the support of reliable, responsible service providers who represent a diverse society. These different means are aimed at achieving the same objective.

"It's about providing equitable access to financial tools that allow each person to build their own wealth."
Debby Cordeiro, Senior Vice-President, Public Affairs and ESG, National Bank

Canada is already doing well in this regard, with recent data from the World Bank indicating that it has the most inclusive financial system among G7 countries. 1 "This position reflects our culture as a welcoming country," says Cordeiro. “Financial inclusion is part of our culture.”

Groups with a fragile financial situation

Certain groups of citizens are particularly vulnerable to economic shocks, including low-income households, Indigenous communities, and newcomers. With 80% of Canadians showing some level of financial vulnerability, 2 there is room for improvement.

Women are also among vulnerable groups. "They're going to take more breaks during their careers," explains Sophie Paquet, Senior Wealth Management Advisor and Portfolio Manager at National Bank Financial. “This leaves them with less money to invest, and less time to do so.” One study shows that, in Quebec, the average net wealth of men is nearly 30% higher than that of women. 3 Moreover, it’s easy to forget, but married Canadian women have only been able to legally own a bank account without their husband's permission as of 1964.

Knowledge is key to good financial health

Promoting financial literacy contributes to the development of these more vulnerable communities. It's an essential way to build wealth, make good decisions, and improve resilience to financial challenges.

"The more you take an interest in your finances and the more access you have to quality information, the better you can build your wealth and participate in decision-making."
Sophie Paquet, Senior Wealth Management Advisor and Portfolio Manager, National Bank Financial

Towards diversified and inclusive financial services

Addressing unconscious bias and adopting inclusive behaviours are key to overcoming inequality and achieving financial inclusion. Institutions have their fair share of responsibilities they need to take ownership of – and National Bank is making headway here. 

For a responsible banking system

National Bank was one of the first signatories of the United Nations (UN) Principles for Responsible Banking. This comprehensive framework aims to align the banking sector with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement by encouraging financial institutions to integrate responsible practices into all their operations and decisions.

National Bank was named "Best Bank for Newcomers to Canada" in 2023 by MoneySense magazine and online media for its many support measures. The credit application process has also been reviewed to make sure it’s free of bias to avoid penalizing newcomers who do not yet have a financial history. Clients can access financial services in five different languages and get up to three years of free banking to facilitate their arrival.

"ESG is an important part of everything we do. The initiatives put in place within our teams are a reflection of our commitment to our clients and partners.”
Debby Cordeiro, Senior Vice-President, Public Affairs and ESG, National Bank

For several years, National Bank has also aimed to support and equip women to achieve their financial independence. "Whether it's through articles and conferences on personal financial management or by recruiting advisors from all walks of life, it's important that we continue to adapt our services to meet their needs and concerns. It’s by implementing good practices that we will increase their confidence, knowledge, and comfort with managing their personal finances to promote their financial independence," insists Paquet.

"Contributing to the well-being of the community is a humbling challenge, because this work is never done. It's a continuous improvement process where we don't aim for perfection, but rather to always move in the right direction.”
Debby Cordeiro, Senior Vice-President, Public Affairs and ESG, National Bank

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