IG Wealth Management is embarking on a five-year, $5-million project to help enhance the financial confidence of Indigenous communities in Canada.
The Winnipeg-based national financial planning company may be starting to target more high net-worth clients, but its new CEO, Damon Murchison, says that its focus is on the financial well-being of the entire country.
With the help of its partner, Prosper Canada as well as SEED Winnipeg and Community Financial Counselling Services, it will start pilot projects in two Manitoba and two Ontario First Nation communities in early 2021.
The specific communities that will participate have yet to be identified.
In its recently released IG Financial Confidence Index that it does in partnership with Ipsos Canada, it found that Canadians as a whole showed significant strength and confidence when it comes to their personal finances even in the midst of a pandemic.
But while the index was actually up four points compared to last year, Indigenous communities were not feeling that same level of confidence scoring nine points below the national average on the index.
Murchison said the approach will be to start with the basics and go from there.
"For example tax filings and navigating government benefits… that is somewhere we can all do better and that is where we are going to start," he said.
The plan would be to then move on to figure out ways to talk about financial goals, paying down debt, understanding savings and debt.
"We will start with the short term which impacts the long term and then make our way to long term, he said. "That is how you ultimately improve financial literacy, confidence then well-being."
Prosper Canada, which was founded in 1986, has partnered with many large corporations across the country to expand economic opportunities for Canadians living in poverty.
The organization has previously developed an Indigenous Financial Wellness Framework produced with plenty of Indigenous input. (The Aboriginal Financial Officers Association is also a partner in this project.)
It has trained more than 2,200 community financial educators over the years who reach out to low-income and vulnerable populations across the country.
Elizabeth Mulholland, the CEO of Prosper Canada, said education is important but points out knowledge alone does not change behaviour.
"We see education as an important element but there’s more required to help ensure First Nations people get past all sorts of institutional barriers," she said. "Many people don’t even have identification that would enable them to claim different government benefits. Incomes are much lower than they need to be."
Mulholland said programs like this always need to be adapted to the needs of the communities that are being addressed and that will be the case with this project with IG Wealth.
Murchison and Mulholland said discussions will start soon and a determination will be made as to how to gauge the success of the program.
Murchison said there is a growing consciousness across the country about social matters and he said the entire IG Wealth team is keen to be involved.
"We truly believe at IG Wealth Management that we can be leaders," he said. "We want to be leaders."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.