Think for a moment of how far the financial sector has come. Where we were once beholden to the opening and closing times of brick and mortar banks, we can now access our accounts anytime, anywhere, with the swipe of a finger. By some estimates, Canadian consumers and businesses are making 58.3 million transactions worth $25 billion on a daily basis.

Many financial leaders are excited about the future of payments in Canada. “Advances in technology are enabling the huge change we’ve seen, but consumers are driving it,” says Justin Ferrabee, Chief Operating Officer of Payments Canada, the organization responsible for leading a multi-year program to modernize Canada’s payment systems, rules, and standards. “There was a big leap to digital and online banking, and now we’ve moved to mobile banking, where individuals now have immediate access and control of their finances.”

Ferrabee adds that the adoption of mobile banking in Canada has been fast, and the future is set to present even more opportunity, as the use of algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning will transform the way we interact with our finances.

Making systems more intelligent

“There will be more intelligence in our financial system. New technology is going to build off the digital innovation we’ve experienced,” notes Ferrabee. “This will allow us to move more fluidly through our lives and commerce.” Services such as Uber and Amazon’s cashier-less store are examples of this change as they rely heavily on automated payments.

Ferrabee imagines a system that will benefit both consumers and businesses. With real-time access to information and more control over their finances, consumers will have greater awareness of their spending habits. With this will come the ability to make smart decisions immediately, rather than waiting a month to review a bank statement or credit card bill and then changing their behaviour. For businesses, it will mean having greater visibility into supply chain and collections, more predictability of cash inflows and outflows, and more automated matching of customer payments to invoices.

Leading the way

According to Ferrabee, Canada has been a leader in advancing financial services, but he says it can feel like leapfrogging as we rebuild our infrastructure to keep up. “We were one of the first in the world to have e-transfers, chip cards, and PINs, and we were ahead of others when it came to tap payments,” he says. “Our banking system is very nimble and can move quickly to adopt new technologies.”

Ferrabee is optimistic about the direction things are moving. “Our financial system today can overwhelm people with its complexity, but profound changes are coming in how we manage and program our financial lives. We will become more astute and our relationship with money will change, and this will benefit everyone.”