Ontario ponies up millions for financial education

By Bryan Borzykowski | March 27, 2008 | Last updated on March 27, 2008
3 min read

While Tuesday’s Ontario budget announcement might have been a lackluster affair, provincial finance minister Dwight Duncan had folks in the financial industry cheering the next day.

A new initiative announced separately from the budget will allocate $4 million over three years to create a Centre of Excellence for Education in Financial Services.

The centre is expected to be established later this year and is meant to “facilitate the export of Ontario financial educational services,” says the Ontario Ministry of Finance.

“Financial services and professional business services are major drivers of Ontario’s knowledge economy,” says Duncan. “We believe the Centre of Excellence will help secure our talent advantage and create a global hub for financial services education and training.”

The Toronto Financial Services Alliance, which is working with the Ontario government to create the centre, says the new project will “harness” Ontario’s international reputation in the financial services industry and “leverage [these strengths] in order to attract, develop and retain the best and brightest talent for the sector.”

While no one’s saying the centre is bad news for the industry, the details about what exactly the $4 million is going to are murky. Brian Smith, a spokesperson for the TFSA, says the fine print is still being worked out and there won’t be any final details until after the summer, at the earliest.

Brian Leader, vice-president of learning for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario, is eager to help out as the institute already has educational centres on university campuses and international connections it calls on for support.

However, ICAO hasn’t been approached yet, and, says Leader, “we don’t have a lot of details of what it’s going to be.”

Smith explains that the centre will act like a hub between Ontario’s universities to coordinate existing financial services programs.

“We are going to try to work with [the universities] to create a virtual network to identify gaps, if there are any, and to try to work more closely with the industry,” says Smith.

Because of its ties to university education, people won’t be able to take courses directly from the centre. Instead, they’ll likely be able to find out which campuses offer relevant courses.

The centre will also serve as a marketing tool in Canada and abroad, pushing the merits of Toronto’s financial community. Smith explains that Toronto already has a high-quality talent pool, but with more top-level students taking Canadian courses, the province’s financial industry could become that much stronger.

“We want to take that advantage that we already have and raise the bar,” says Smith. “We’d market our capabilities internationally and throughout Canada in order to attract the best and the brightest to come and study in Toronto, and that will enhance the quality of the candidate pool we have already, and we can export that.”

With a few million dollars designated to the centre, the TFSA isn’t worried about getting it off the ground. Long term, however, the organization will have to find money from the private sector to keep it funded.

“I think you would have to describe this as seed money because it’s certainly going to allow us to get it off the ground and begin the work we need to do,” says Smith. “I don’t know whether it will be enough in the long run to be sustained, but it’s certainly going to let us get out there and show what we can do.”

Filed by Bryan Borzykowski, Advisor.ca, bryan.borzykowski@advisor.rogers.com


Bryan Borzykowski