Alberta, and Calgary in particular, is home to a financial services industry that punches well above its weight. The province has a strong concentration of capital-intensive industries, led by oil and gas, and has long had a strong demand for a robust, innovative financial services sector. Calgary also has 102 corporate head offices, more than any other Canadian city except Toronto.
As a result, the province has developed world-class expertise in niche sectors such as asset management, trading, mergers and acquisition, corporate banking and equity issuance, and you’ll find most of the world’s largest financial players here.
But that is just the beginning. Driven by consumer demand and technological revolution within the international financial services sector, Alberta is home to an exciting cohort of fintech startups. These developments will only accelerate in the years to come, and Alberta is poised to be at the forefront of this dynamic change. Symend, Benevity and Neo Financial are just a few of the local success stories.
All of this is underpinned by a wide array of banks, credit unions, insurance firms, accountancy firms and private investment funds, ensuring that businesses in the province have the financial support they need to expand and succeed. In fact, Alberta will invest over $1.5 billion in digital transformation for financial services from 2021 to 2024. Add that to the low cost of doing business in Alberta, excellent lifestyle amenities for employees and a driven, skilled workforce and it’s a winning combination for investment in Alberta.
29 PER CENT, 39 PER CENT
Affordability metrics: Average share of
income a household needs to cover ownership costs in Edmonton and Calgary, respectively, which are the lowest of Canada’s five largest cities
8 PER CENT
Alberta’s corporate tax rate, which is the lowest in Canada. Alberta also has no payroll taxes, sales taxes or capital taxes.
75 PER CENT
of the top 20 global investment banks have branch offices in Alberta
is Alberta’s tax advantage in 2022-2023
Sources: Government of Alberta, Alberta Treasury Board and Finance
When the Great Depression swept through Alberta in the 1930s, credit became difficult to obtain as banks pulled out of the province. In response, the provincial government founded what was then known as Alberta Treasury Branches to fill the gap. Now called ATB Financial, it is the largest financial institution based in the province, with more than 5,000 employees providing financial services to more than 800,000 Albertan residents and businesses. It is the largest public bank in North America and the only such institution to be owned by a Canadian province.
But that success is just the beginning of Alberta’s strong and diverse homegrown financial institutions. That list includes Canadian Western Bank, a federally regulated financial institution with a national presence that emphasizes work with small busi-nesses. It also includes no fewer than 13 credit unions, which are community-based cooperative organizations that offer the same products and services as other financial institutions but are owned and operated by their members. In 2021, those credit unions sent $84 million back to members through patronage and share dividends.
Small Business Solutions
In 2022, Edmonton-based Canadian Western Bank was recognized for developing a digital tool for small business owners that uses artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to determine and predict the health of their companies. Called the Virtual Chief Operating Officer (Virtual COO), the technology is one of the first explainable AI-driven solutions for small businesses in the market, offering relevant insights and a holistic view to put business owners in control of their companies’ financial destinies.
The new solution pushes the boundaries of digital banking by aggregating financial, banking and business data to provide a consolidated real-time view of a small business’s financial health, and lighten the administrative burden.
The Virtual COO was honoured with a 2022 Impact Award in Cash Management and Payments by Aite- Novarica Group, a global advisory firm providing mission-critical insights on technology, regulations, strategy and operations to the financial services industry.
Money on a Mission
In 2008, the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Community Foundation came together to create the Social Enterprise Fund (SEF). Put simply, SEF lends money to social enterprises in Alberta that want to make things better in the community and in the world.
Social enterprises, like any small business, may require access to capital to grow. Given their sometimes unusual structures or business spheres, they can face challenges finding the financing they need through traditional sources. SEF acts as a patient lender, working with these organizations to meet their financing needs. SEF provides imaginative capital that helps them accomplish important public benefit missions.
Clients come in all shapes and sizes, and can be any corporate structure. SEF works across the province and in a wide range of sectors such as social challenges, food security, the environment and culture. So far, the fund has invested over $75 million CAD in more than 80 projects.