PwC digital banking director Abraham Tachjian to be named Canada’s open banking lead

Abraham Tachjian open banking lead
The appointment to come almost a year after its recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Open Banking.

Canada finally has its open banking lead. PwC Canada digital banking director Abraham Tachjian has been chosen to kickstart open banking efforts in the country, BetaKit has learned.

Multiple sources familiar with the selection process confirmed to BetaKit under condition of anonymity that the federal government is expected to announce the appointment Tuesday.

The Globe and Mail also published a story today noting that the government is set to announce Tachjian as the lead this week.

Tachjian was not immediately available for comment. The Department of Finance responded to a request for comment following the public announcement of Tachjian’s appointment.

“As a common law and civil law qualified lawyer, I bring a multidisciplinary approach which allows me to provide a unique point of view that bridges the gap between banking, technology and law,” Tachjian’s LinkedIn page reads.

The department officially announced Tachjian’s appointment on Tuesday. His mandate is described as developing “a ‘made-in-Canada’ regime based on the recommendations in the final report of the Advisory Committee on Open Banking.”

Tachjian is now tasked with engaging with industry, regulators, and consumer representatives to “design and implement key pillars” of the open banking system, including common rules and an accreditation framework.

“Canadians deserve a secure open banking system that is regulated, efficient, and protects their personal information,” Boissonnault said in an official statement regarding the appointment. “This is an important next step in the process of implementing the Advisory Committee’s recommendations, in order to convene stakeholders to design and implement the foundational elements of an open banking system that benefits both Canadians and businesses.”

Tachjian has operated as PwC Canada’s director of digital banking since February 2020. Prior to that, he was a founding member and head of operational risk at Mox, a Hong Kong digital bank owned by Standard Chartered.

Sources familiar with the process told BetaKit that PwC was hired to lead the second round of open banking consultations, noting that Tachjian was at the centre of that process.

“As a common law and civil law qualified lawyer, I bring a multidisciplinary approach which allows me to provide a unique point of view that bridges the gap between banking, technology and law,” Tachjian’s LinkedIn page reads.

In addition to engaging with stakeholders, and creating common rules and an accreditation framework, Tachjian will be responsible for providing advice to the government regarding the administration of a system of open banking.

Tachjian will report to the deputy minister of finance, Boissonnault, and will receive support from a secretariat within the Department of Finance and external experts, as required.

Reactions to the decision from those BetaKit spoke to seemed more mixed. Some noted Tachjian’s strong performance during the consultations, while some preferred other names from the candidate shortlist. Most noted that the position would be difficult for anyone to balance the demands of government, incumbents, and FinTech disruptors. Many are happy that the search is over.

“I’m glad it’s not a bank person, put it that way,” one person who participated in the open banking consultations told BetaKit.

Following the announcement, BetaKit received statements of support for Tachjian’s appointment from organizations like Plaid, the Council of Canadian Innovators, and The Financial Data and Technology Association (FDATA) of North America.

“Today represents an important step forward in Canada’s efforts to deliver open banking by 2023,” said FDATA. “We are encouraged by this action and look forward to working with Open Banking lead Tachjian to ensure a competitive, customer-centric open banking ecosystem in Canada that boosts financial access and inclusion.”

The appointment comes more than three years after the federal government launched its Advisory Committee on Open Banking, and almost a year to the day since their report recommended a lead designing the “early phase of the [open banking] system” (the report was ultimately publicly released five months later in August). It is a process that has spanned two finance ministers: Bill Morneau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

RELATED: FinTech startups frustrated with glacial pace of Canada’s open banking consultations

Per the Advisory Committee’s recommendation, the appointed lead would work with government and industry on both the design and implementation of a regulated and secure system to replace the common practice of screen scraping customer financial data. The lead would also be responsible for a “common rules and an accreditation framework” for third-party service providers through consultation with industry, government regulators, and consumer representatives, and complete system design work within nine months of appointment.

Canada’s long and drawn-out path to open banking has often been criticized by Canadian FinTech companies for what they consider its glacial pace. Last week, a group of stakeholders penned an open letter to Canada’s Associate Minister of Finance, Randy Boissonnault, calling for an update to the open banking file, claiming it “is being left to gather dust.”

“There are many recommendations in there. Some of them require—if the government were to adopt them—legislative work, policymaking work, the standing up of a formal governance entity [to] manage and oversee the open banking system. There’s been no indication that any of that work is going to happen,” letter signatory and PayTechs of Canada Executive Director, Alex Vronces, told BetaKit.

The Advisory Committee report called for the government to introduce the first stage of open banking by 2023. Following the numerous delays throughout the process, the letter signatories questioned whether the Liberal Party’s 2021 pledge to introduce open banking by 2023 will come to fruition.

One US-based startup with operations in Canada and Europe told BetaKit last year that a two-year window to implement a functional open banking framework seemed “aggressive,” and Tachjian will be starting with half of that window closed. While many in the Canadian FinTech community are happy that an open banking lead has been named, that does not mean they are satisfied.

“We are very happy with Mr. Tachjian’s nomination. He possesses the qualities, skills and aptitude for the role and we will collaborate with him unconditionally,” Flinks COO, Dominique Samson, told BetaKit in a statement. “However, while we celebrate Mr. Tachjian’s nomination and Minister Boissonnault’s drive, it only represents a first step. No tangible progress has been achieved yet, and the new open banking lead needs to start implementing the Advisory Committee’s final report in full, as soon as possible.”

UPDATE (03/22/22): this story has been updated with additional commentary following the government’s announcement of Tachjian’s appointment.

UPDATE (03/21/22): this story has been updated with additional commentary.
Feature image courtesy Twitter.

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.

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