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Newcomer seniors learn about the Canadian banking system

Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House (MPNH), located in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood of Vancouver, BC, is a non-profit organization that aims to build a healthy and engaged neighbourhood by connecting people and strengthening their capacity to create change. The organization offers a number of services and programs for families, seniors, Indigenous peoples and newcomers. They recently ran a Money Matters workshop for Mandarin-speaking seniors to help them better understand the Canadian banking system.

Money Matters is a free introductory financial literacy program for adult learners that has been delivered to Canadians since 2011 with support from TD Bank Group through the TD Ready Commitment, the Bank’s corporate citizenship platform. The core program offers five workshops in four different languages (English, French, Arabic and Simplified Chinese), and MPNH thought the Banking Basics workshop would be a great fit for their senior audience. In the workshop, learners cover consumers’ banking rights in Canada, choosing the right bank for their needs, online and mobile banking basics, and how to keep their money safe online.

“Most of the seniors that attended this workshop go into a bank branch to handle their banking issues, so this course showed them that they can manage their money in another way through online banking,” said Isaac Tang, Chinese Speaking Seniors Settlement Worker at MPNH. In his role, he works mainly with senior-age newcomers, many of them from China. “It was very nice to have the workbook available in Chinese, as often times, it is difficult to find resources that aren’t in English.”

As part of the workshop, Tang invited a TD Bank volunteer to help facilitate.

Ansa Mao is a Chartered investment manager (CIM®) and a qualified associate financial planner (QAFP™) currently working as a financial planning associate for TD Wealth. She came across a volunteer opportunity on the TD Ready Commitment Network, a colleague portal that shares ways colleagues are able to get involved in their communities. MPNH was seeking a Mandarin-speaking employee to help out with a financial literacy workshop. Mao was eager to participate as she felt that many of the participants were her parents’ age, and she wanted to be able to help this population better understand the banking system in Canada.

“Prior to my current role I worked in retail banking, and so I have a lot of experience talking to people about banking fundamentals,” she says. “My branch was in downtown Toronto near the University of Toronto and several hospitals, and so I had many clients who were international students or newcomers working in the medical field.”

Mao says there are many differences between the banking system in Canada and other countries, so programs like Money Matters are helpful for newcomers.

“In some Asian countries they don’t have chequing and saving accounts – there’s only one account – and so I need to explain to them the difference,” Mao says. “One participant asked me the difference between e-transfers in Canada compared to China, and I was able to inform them that banks in Canada have several safety measures in place, like putting a cap on the amount of money you can send in order to protect the end user. If banks notice something suspicious, they will flag it.”

Mao explains that the cultural differences can be hard for newcomers to grasp, and so it’s important that individuals have a close relationship with their banker so they can better understand the rules and regulations.

“In a lot of cultures, carrying debt is not a good thing. But in Canada, if you can manage it properly, you can benefit from it,” she says. “One of my responsibilities is to help clients better understand how to manage debt and what the repercussions are. For example, if they pay only the minimum balance on a credit card, they will pay interest – sometimes people don’t realize that. In some European countries for example, you can only pay the full balance – there is no option to pay the minimum, so it’s important to let people know what the impact is of their choices.”

To learn more about Money Matters or to host a free workshop at your organization, visit