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Connecting for Common Good: Highlights from COR.SPARK 2019

Symcor January 06, 2020
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Canada’s financial services and insurance industry came together for a day of learning and networking at Symcor’s 4th annual COR.SPARK Innovation Summit. The theme of the summit ‘Connecting for Common Good’, which is also Symcor’s North Star, was chosen to showcase the importance of collaboration in the market’s rapidly changing digital landscape. Lending their voice and weight to this mission were thought-leaders and experts in fintech, cyber security, AI and data science, medical innovation, and social advocacy.

The new era of banking: Digital, Open and Human

The summit keynote was delivered by noted commentator Chris Skinner, who is described as one of the top 40 most influential people in Fintech by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News and Thomson Reuters.

“Banks are the intermediary of trust, and that’s the critical thing most technologists don’t understand,” said Skinner. “The average bank has five times more regulation than the average technology company because banks intermediate trust between people, companies and institutions that perhaps do not trust each other. This is the reason why banks are the core of economies, governments, and societies,” he stated.

Next, crime and risk expert and former police officer, Chris Mathers took over the stage with an eye-opening presentation on the inner workings of financial crime. Mathers described his years working undercover for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, US Drug Enforcement Administration, and US Customs Service, posing as a gangster, a drug trafficker, and even as a money launderer to fight crime.

“To take on the bad guys, you have to think like them. Financial institutions need to engage with law enforcement and be very proactive in gathering information on what the bad actors are up to. It’s the only way to stop it. If we don’t, fraud will become even more pervasive,” Mathers said emphatically.

The link between human trafficking and money laundering

Another speaker at COR.SPARK 2019 was Timea Nagy, a brave survivor of human trafficking. Nagy gave the audience a glimpse into her terrifying experience in the dark world of human trafficking and how perpetrators funnel money through legitimate financial channels.

“Ask me how we will stop human trafficking? When we come together, have conversations, collaborate, we close the door together,” she said.  

Speaking alongside Timea Nagy was Cameron Field, Senior Manager at BMO’s AML Financial Intelligence Unit. He spoke about Project PROTECT, a joint collaboration between FINTRAC, financial institutions and law enforcement that targets human trafficking activities by focusing on the money laundering aspect of the crime.

Highlighting the need to work for the “common good” of ending the trans-national spread of human trafficking, Cameron noted that, “Bank-to-bank intelligence sharing is very limited in Canada. When we work in silos, we are incredibly restricted and very inefficient.”

Open banking in Canada: Hot or Cold?

An accomplished panel of industry professionals discussed and debated the prospect of open banking in Canada from the perspective of consumer protection, privacy, cybersecurity and financial stability.

The expert panel was comprised of: Kirsten Thompson, Partner and National Lead of the Transformative Technologies and Data Strategy Group at Dentons; Franklin Garrigues, Vice President, Digital Channel at TD; Abhishek Sinha, Partner in the Financial Services Advisory practice of Ernst & Young LLP; and our summit keynote, Chris Skinner. The panel’s diverse views on open banking generated a lot of interest during the summit, especially during the Q&A session.

Innovations in payments, healthcare and finance that promote the common good

Exploring the implications of real-time payments in Canada, Joanna Lewis, partner at Capco, drove home the message that financial institutions need to come together and leverage the power of collective data responsibly to eliminate fraud, instead of working independently to detect it.

We also had award-winning speaker and futurist researcher, Nikolas Badminton, share an awe-inspiring vision of the technologies that will mold our future. Speaking about Finance in the year 2030, Badminton spoke of “data dignity”, and declared that “digital rights were human rights.”

Another thought-provoking presentation came from Dr. Sacha Bhatia, Chief Medical Innovation Officer at Women’s College Hospital. Dr. Bhatia gave the audience a rich insight into virtual care and how digital health technologies are revolutionizing the way care is delivered to patients.

“What if we can intervene before a health incident occurs? We can improve the quality and timeliness of care if we integrate digital health tools into service design and unlock the power of big data for our doctors,” said Dr. Bhatia.

‘Common good equals public good’: Final thoughts from Chameli Naraine, CEO, Symcor

Symcor’s President & CEO, Chameli Naraine, closed the 2019 COR.SPARK Innovation Summit by raising a call to action, urging participants to work together to respond to the challenges facing our industry and societies.

“We hope that you gain two sets of currencies from us – knowledge and awareness. We believe this conference is a solution group. Whether it is fraud, financial crimes, human trafficking or virtual healthcare, you heard today that these things are in search of a solution, whether it is a revolution or an evolution. We need to pick up the pace and start solving some of these,” Chameli said.

Reiterating Symcor’s commitment to trust, Chameli concluded by saying that the financial industry has to march ahead as one unit to foster innovation in Canada and to ensure our country is able to compete on the global stage. “When we are driven by the common good, it automatically translates into public good,” said CEO Chameli Naraine.

In 2020, Symcor will return with our 5th COR.SPARK Innovation Summit. Send us your thoughts and suggestions on who you would like to hear on stage and the issues that matter to you. Email us at

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