Q&A: Symcor’s Saba Shariff on getting Open Banking in Canada over the line

Ellie Duncan,
19 Nov 2021

Saba Shariff, head of new product development and corporate strategy at Symcor, tells Open Banking Expo what needs to happen in the next six months to move consumer-directed finance forward in Canada.

1. Explain what you do in less than 50 words

I lead Symcor’s new product development and corporate strategy teams. My team and I help set the strategic direction for the enterprise and collaborate with internal and external stakeholders to launch and commercialise our newest products and services.

2. Where does your company sit within the Open Banking ecosystem?

We’re a key service provider that enables secure data exchanges across a number of B2B organisations spanning financial services, telecoms and utilities. In each of those interactions, there’s value in making the processes and engagements more effective and efficient through an organisation like Symcor – a trusted service provider to some of Canada’s largest corporations for the last 25 years. Consider us a service provider to those that are originators of data and to those that are consuming the data.

3. Did the recent report from the Government’s advisory committee go far enough in your opinion? (please explain your answer)

In some regards, you could argue the report was ambitious in its scope as it attempted to build off of the lessons learned from other jurisdictions – whether that be in terms of the types of accounts considered, the scope of data envisioned out of the gate or around the discussions related to technical standards. I do believe there’s value in learning lessons from others and so I understand their reasoning.

Saba Shariff

Saba Shariff, Symcor

However, I feel that we went into the discussion with a blueprint that was perhaps a little too ‘baked’, which tended to focus on whether the blueprint was right or wrong, versus starting with the root problem statement and building from there.

That being said, it was clear from the consultations that there are points of agreement across various types of industry members, which was a real positive. It would have been great to land on an aligned path forward, and if we could have broken the ‘implementation’ down into small, tangible pieces, participants may have been more receptive.

4. What are the challenges to overcome before Canada can implement Open Banking (consumer-directed finance)?

One of those challenges would be around bringing clarity to data rights. I’m a proponent of focusing on solving for specific issues. I think there is value in starting with customer data rights, data protection and security obligations.

We also have unique jurisdictional requirements related to financial services and privacy that the report needed to consider, both federally and provincially.

5. In your opinion, is the 2023 Open Banking implementation deadline achievable? If so, what needs to happen in the next six months to reach this goal?

I’m a big believer in starting with small, purposeful wins to get traction, learn and evolve and build from there. For us to move CDF forward in Canada, that’s the approach we’ll have to take. That means in the next six months, there needs to be alignment on the scope of data to be shared and basic agreements around liability, data security and protection. That may sound ambitious, but we’re not starting from scratch. Through consultations and ongoing industry dialogue, each of these topics have advanced since last year.

6. Are you able to talk to and share any recent or upcoming product launches from the Symcor business?

As I’ve mentioned, Symcor provides secure data exchanges across various industries. We’ve recently launched one within our fraud detection line of business that highlights the value that we bring to the B2B market.

This is a real-time API that supports the validation of account statuses and funds in order to reduce the likelihood of cheque deposit fraud and can lead to an improved customer experience. It’s an example of the benefits a utility can bring when there are multiple organisations involved and centralised capabilities can provide value across the ecosystem.

Saba Sheriff is speaking on a panel debate at Open Banking Expo Canada at 9:30am on Tuesday 23rd November on consumer-directed finance. View the full agenda and register for this virtual event.