When asked to describe what makes his line of work so rewarding, Sam Bouji, the CEO of the Canadian financial-services giant Global, tells a story. He was at a wedding, talking with his friend, the father of the groom, and another guest; his friend said that he’d known Bouji since just before 1990, when he enrolled his two kids in registered education savings plans (RESPs). The kids had since graduated from university, but their father still valued highly what that initial enrollment had meant and had done for them.
“We are helping society and our community to educate their children,” Bouji says, speaking plainly about the mission of his subsidiary, Global RESP Corporation. “We keep them off the streets. After they go to university, they’ll marry, live in educated society, and their children will follow in their footsteps. With very little effort, we are creating a better community.”
Global RESP’s history parallels that of Canada’s educational-savings supplements. In February 1998, the prime minister established the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG), which gives 20 percent of a family’s annual contribution (up to $500 each year) to that family’s RESP. Bouji was a friend of the prime minister’s and knew that Global’s financial-investment strategies could help these funds.
Since CESG first began, Global RESP has been taking applications from parents and investing their money until their children turn 18, when the accumulated funds and total grants can be put toward their children’s postsecondary education. “Before 1998, seven percent of Canadian children ages 0–18 were qualified to be enrolled in an [educational savings plan],” Bouji says. “As of today, about 40–45 percent are eligible.”
By The Numbers
Percentage of Canadian children eligible for ESP enrollment
Funds invested for education savings plans
Number of Canadian children enrolled in RESPs at any given time
Years Sam Bouji has worked in finance
Number of countries in which Global RESP-enrolled students have attended university or college
Additionally, the Canada Learning Bond offers $500 to children who receive the National Child Benefit Supplement. Those children may then also be eligible for another $100 per year, up to the age of 15. That program launched in 2004, and it wasn’t long before individual provinces began to follow the Canadian government’s plan. In 2004, the Alberta Savings Grant was established, which offers children of Alberta families who were born in or after 2005 a one-time grant of $500, with some eligible for subsequent $100 contributions. Québec also recently initiated the Québec Education Savings Incentive, which can pay an additional 10 percent per year based on an annual contribution of $2,500 (up to a maximum of $3,600) per child. “Every child has an account with us,” Bouji says. “But we do investing for both [families with savings plans and the government].”
Recently, Global RESP announced that both British Columbia and Saskatchewan were launching plans of their own. Saskatchewan’s plan, the Saskatchewan Advantages Grant for Education Savings (SAGES), was launched earlier this year, and it contributes 10 percent of a subscriber’s contributions—up to $4,500 total. Global RESP estimates that SAGES could benefit more than 83,000 children in the province. British Columbia’s grant, the BC Training Education and Savings Grant, gives $1,200 to resident children who have an RESP before the age of seven.
Though the effect of these expanding programs is easy to see financially (just $4 billion was available in RESP contributions before 1998, and $32 billion is today), what is less easy to quantify, Bouji says, is the positive societal impact these programs will have. He looks forward to the possibilities, though.
“When all these children graduate, there will be an explosion in the economy,” he says. “Many of our kids could become scientists who find the cure to cancer. We don’t know how much of an impact they will make in the future. I recently saw in one of the newspapers [an article about] one child who’s going to college through Global RESP. Who knows what the future of that child will be.”