A central bank for a digital Canada

To remain a leader in a highly complex digital world, the Bank is undertaking a digital transformation. As a data-driven institution, the Bank understands the importance of providing its staff with the latest technology and data.

But the benefits of advanced analytics cannot be fully realized without also focusing on workplace culture. The Bank has adopted a holistic approach to going digital. The shift is more than simply adopting the latest tools and techniques. It is about redefining how employees:

  • learn
  • approach problems
  • answer questions
  • work together

In 2020, the Bank launched a comprehensive strategy for its digital transformation. The strategy lays out a structured approach to support the Bank’s ambition to become digital first in every aspect of its business. This work is vital to the Bank’s ability to promote the economic and financial well-being of Canada in a digital era. This year, for the first time, the Annual Report is entirely digital.

Building a solid foundation: data skills and infrastructure

Data are the Bank’s most important digital resource. Over the past few years, major initiatives in renewing technology and services have laid the groundwork for transformation. They have significantly improved the Bank’s capabilities in:

  • data management
  • systems
  • analytics
  • data science

These investments empower employees by making it easier for them to access, manage, search and share data.

In 2020, the Bank launched a searchable data catalogue. It also introduced a highly secure data repository that enables researchers to access and work with sensitive microdata. Meanwhile, a growing data science division continued to advance work across Bank departments.

This foundational work served the Bank well early in the COVID‑19 pandemic. Bank analysts had access to a wide variety of non-traditional data to:

  • increase understanding of the economic crisis
  • inform policy-making

As part of a broader initiative to identify future skills that will be needed across the organization, the Bank launched a program that enhances data awareness, matures our data capabilities and encourages continuous learning in a diverse, stimulating work environment.

The Bank recognizes that cultivating a digital-first culture helps to attract, develop and retain highly qualified people. To that end, and in support of fostering a digitally able workforce, the Bank also supports the exploration and adoption of emerging technologies, including:

  • intelligent automation
  • quantum computing
  • advanced cyber security
  • digital learning

Focusing transformation efforts where it matters

The Bank’s new digital strategy provides a clear and structured approach to transformation that is tied directly to its mandate.

In 2020, senior leaders worked together to identify four business priorities for the strategy:

  • enhancing economic analysis and policy action
  • achieving operational efficiencies
  • improving digital communications
  • advancing work toward a central bank digital currency as a contingency

In this way, the strategy serves as an important lens. Decision-makers can focus digital efforts and investments where they can have the greatest possible impact—in the areas that matter most to the Bank.

A central tenet of the strategy is to engage and empower employees. It includes a set of broad digital-first principles that employees have enthusiastically begun to integrate into their daily work. This process reinforces digital thinking and ways of working across the organization.

This year, the Bank explored how it can continue to use new and emerging technologies to improve its analysis and operations. Several ideas were developed into proofs of concept, with some making it to full production. One of these applies natural language processing—a branch of artificial intelligence—to help analyze results from the Bank’s Financial System Survey. As with other advanced analytics experiments of this kind, it freed up staff time to be used on more value-added analysis.

The pandemic and mandatory remote work made it more difficult to collaborate with external experts. Despite this, the Bank continued to successfully conduct experiments through its Partnerships in Innovation and Technology Program, known as PIVOT.

Planning for a digital-first future

As the Bank heads into the final year of its current medium-term plan, efforts are already underway to develop the next plan. The Bank is committed to help guide Canada’s economy through the post-pandemic recovery. Digital transformation is key to this commitment. It will ensure the Bank can continue to capably fulfill its mandate in a rapidly changing digital world.

Looking forward

In 2021, the Bank will:

  • continue to evolve its analytic environment, with an expanded data management function to meet the needs of broader types and increasing volumes of data
  • improve capabilities in analysis, data science and advanced technology to use these data and new approaches in policy and research
  • launch an enterprise learning platform and curated courses for employees to develop high-priority skills, including data and digital skills
  • strengthen the capacity of economic analysis by adding new data science and artificial intelligence capabilities
  • further the Bank’s use of data analytics in oversight and decision-making
  • continue to partner with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) on the launch of a new BIS Innovation Hub centre in Toronto