Making banking more accessible is not really something many people consider, but it’s a problem at the forefront of ATB Financial’s latest announcement.
Four Directions Financial is a new partnership between the massive ATB Financial and Boyle Street Community Services, both located in Edmonton. It is a community agency that strives to provide better banking access to vulnerable customers through the use of biometric identification.
The new feature is a first for Alberta and a first in Canada for the underbanked. Four Directions was born when ATB Financial—the largest home-grown financial institution in the province, with assets of over $48 billion—came together with Boyle Street and determined the best way to remove banking barriers for those living in poverty was to utilize biometrics.
Biometrics entail the use of fingerprint and retinal scans to identify an account holder, removing the need for holding cash or using a physical bank card. Of the 500 clients in Four DIrections so far, 65 per cent use biometric identification.
“This unprecedented partnership with ATB has resulted in removing a significant barrier to banking, which has enabled our clients to take control of and protect their financial resources,” said Julian Daly, executive director at Boyle Street Community Services.
Other features offered by Four Directions include a customer-set daily withdrawal limit, direct deposit for government cheques and banking availability to anyone who asks—not just Boyle Street clients. These features, along with biometrics, have the ability to help vulnerable citizens maintain more control over their financials.
“When you’re not able to access mainstream financial services, you’re exploited in all sorts of ways. You get charged interest, high fees for cashing a cheque, and you have to cash cheques all at once. That means you’re carrying large amounts of money, in cash, which means folks are often robbed,” explained Daly. “By having a bank, it means the money is safe, you’re less likely to be attacked and you have money throughout the whole month.”
More than 30 per cent of Four Directions clients now see savings in their accounts at the end of every month.
Check out a video produced by Four Directions that looks at two powerful client stories.