Building the Bank of the Future: How first and second generation Canadian teenagers are helping TD set new Canadians up for financial success

Imagine arriving in a new country hoping to build a better life for your family and you suddenly find yourself starting from scratch when it comes to your finances.

Maybe you have no bank account and no credit. Maybe you don't speak any of the languages offered at the ATM, or you arrived in Canada without the kind of identification papers normally needed to set up financial accounts.

These are the kinds of challenges facing many new Canadians, and which many organizations in the financial services industry are looking to solve to help ease the integration process for immigrants.

These are also the kind of challenges that students like Ben Jones, a 17-year-old Toronto student of Australian-Canadian roots, were looking to solve as part of a competition for students between the ages of 13 and 17 run by The Knowledge Society – an incubator for students to explore innovative topics – and supported by TD. 

As part of the months-long competition, five teams of Toronto students between the ages of 13 and 17 were tasked with creating innovative solutions capable of bringing The Bank of the Future to new immigrants, even before they settle in Canada.

Jones was the driving force behind one of the two winning proposals. His presentation last week at a special event in Toronto focused on identifying ways for banks to work with new Canadians unable to transfer their existing credit from their home nation.

His marketing-driven proposal to help reach new Canadians stood out thanks to its detailed newcomer journey approach that would begin before the customer even lands in Canada, and includes online account creation and referral systems.

"The question we posed was: How can TD add value in the new Canadian journey, and how can we make new immigrants feel confident in their financial experience in Canada?" said Sue MacDonald, Associate Vice President, Everyday Banking at TD.

"Partnering with TD Lab and TKS, we were able to tap into the minds of some truly incredible students to understand how up and coming technologies and solutions can make a tangible difference in the lives of new immigrants."

The solutions created by the five top teams that participated were all tailored towards creating a banking journey for new Canadians that is simple, efficient, and educational, while providing a personalized approach tailored to each individual's unique needs. Their ideas utilized a range of technology including chatbots, blockchain, and smart ID systems, and focused on personalizing the customer journey while creating marketing approaches to help new immigrants to begin building their financial confidence even as they are putting down roots in Canada.

The students received expert guidance from TKS to develop their solutions designed to make a significant difference in the banking process for immigrants, and the winners were revealed at a special event in Toronto on Thursday, co-hosted by TD Everyday Banking and the bank’s Innovation Lab.

"Over the past 10 months, we've been working with and training these students to have a strong mindset, a professional network and the right skills, and the opportunity to apply these skills through TD with an experiential opportunity at this age is a great way for them to learn," said Nadeem Nathoo, Executive Director, Growth and Partnerships at TKS.

"They're also working on something meaningful for the bank, and getting this level of empowerment at this young age is a great developmental opportunity."

The second winning team – consisting of a group that included 14-year old Zaynah Bhanji, the daughter of an East African immigrant; 15-year old Riya Karumanchi, the daughter of South Indian immigrants; and Stephanie Porfiris, also 15, the daughter of Greek immigrants – developed a proposal that focused on the customer experience, providing new Canadians with banking information at their fingertips powered by sophisticated chatbots and smart detection algorithms.

The members of both winning teams will receive a unique mentorship opportunity with a senior executive from TD's Canadian Retail and Digital teams, a chance to present their ideas for the Bank of the Future to executives from across TD, and future internships with the bank.

New immigrants represent the fastest growing population in Canada. According to the 2016 Census, more than 7.5 million foreign-born people came to Canada through the immigration process, representing more than 1 in 5 people in Canada.

"This is a great opportunity to empower youth to explore new and groundbreaking topics while being mentored by an experienced team, allowing them to not just expand their minds but also build professional networks at a very young age and capitalizing on them," said Tim Hogarth, Vice President, Innovation Frameworks and Strategies at TD.