Facilitating a Financially Literate Future

How Andrea Cotroneo supports the banking industry and the Canadian economy as the Canadian Bankers Association’s legal mastermind

The Canadian Bankers Association’s (CBA) goal is to empower Canadians to take control of their finances. In keeping with that mission, Andrea Cotroneo, general counsel and corporate secretary of the CBA, champions financial literacy by working as a liaison between Canada’s regulatory agencies and with more than 60 banks across the country. Here Cotroneo discusses how she works behind the scenes to advocate for policies that benefit both public and private interests.

Andrea Cotroneo is general counsel and corporate secretary of the CBA. As a member of the executive team, she manages its legal- and consumer-affairs division while promoting the organization’s mandate to promote financial literacy.

What are some of your biggest responsibilities as general counsel and corporate secretary of the CBA?
Much of what I do is establish alliances and relationships between the CBA and regulatory authorities. I’m also responsible for all of the organization’s internal compliance efforts and for being continually aware of all legal and regulatory issues that are current and coming down the pipeline. As part of the executive team, I provide direction on our overall strategic plan.

What does your typical workday look like?
My team is always advocating on behalf of many different banks—large, small, domestic, foreign—so there’s always a different issue on the table.

The common thread throughout most days, generally, is promoting the interests of banks. But on any given day, I could be working on a submission to a regulatory agency, taking calls from any of our member banks on a legal or consumer issue they are facing, preparing for a board meeting, interfacing with government committees, or reading legislation to try and form a view for our members. It’s a very diverse day.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role?
The banking industry is a very strong driver of the Canadian economy; it contributes tens of billions of dollars to Canada’s GDP every year. The CBA works to enhance the banking industry’s reputation and ensure that regulations are efficient. It’s interesting, important work, and it has a real impact on the Canadian people. That’s the most rewarding aspect.

What notable projects are you currently involved in?
We typically operate behind the scenes. Generally speaking, securities matters affecting the capital markets are very active right now and are keeping the team very busy.

Has it been successful?For more than a decade, the CBA has worked to promote financial literacy throughout Canada. How so?
More than 96 percent of Canadians have an account with an established financial institution, and they look to those institutions for a wealth of advice on day-to-day matters like savings accounts, business planning, mortgages, home buying, and more. With the help of these banks, and in partnership with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the CBA provide tools of understanding. The biggest initiative is Your Money Students, an hour-long financial-literacy seminar for senior-level high-school students that we’ve operated since 1999. Local bankers across Canada devote their time to talk about credit, budgeting, savings, fraud, and other real-life financial subjects.

Hundreds of thousands of young Canadians have been through this program, and we get amazing feedback from students and teachers through surveys and word of mouth. It’s had a very positive impact on the future of young Canadians.

What else is the CBA doing to promote financial literacy?
As Canadians live longer, healthier lives, they are asking important questions such as, “How can I make my money last?” and, “How can I manage my affairs if my capacity is diminished?” We saw a need for an educational program that helps seniors make the most out of their money, so in 2014, we launched Your Money Seniors, which is modelled after the students program and is offered free of charge to senior groups and retirement homes.

Above all, it teaches seniors about financial fraud and about how to protect themselves from financial abuse.

What goals do you have going forward?
I’m new to the CBA. As with any new executive in an organization, I’m thinking about how I can use my team in the most efficient way possible. I’m taking stock of what we’re spending our time on and how that stacks up against our strategic plan.

In the future, I want to build more cross functionality. My team comes from all different backgrounds, and they have been experts at what they do for a very long time. I want us to work in a more collaborative way so we can maximize our vast amount of knowledge and benefit from each other’s perspectives.