ASC Strategic Plan

Strat plan at a glance

Message from the Chair

In Alberta, the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 added an entirely new set of challenges, whose impact continues. Our capital market had already seen exceptional change in the previous few years and the global pandemic presented Albertans, Alberta businesses and our economy as a whole with unprecedented challenges. Two certainties motivate the Alberta Securities Commission's (ASC) planning: we must do all we can to maintain the resilience of one of Canada's most important capital markets and we must prepare for new market realities in the months and years to come.

We strive to provide intelligent regulation that facilitates an adaptable and enduring capital market, and supports efforts to encourage growth and the diversification of our economy. As always, we collaborate with other regulators and market participants, and continue to seek ways to reduce regulatory burden, monitor compliance, enforce and educate. Protecting investors is always at the top of our agenda.

Despite Alberta’s economic challenges, our capital market remains one of the most important in Canada and Albertans are proving, once again, just how resilient and forward-thinking they are as they find ways to diversify our economy. Companies of all sizes, and from a range of industries, are innovating, evolving and growing. And we are committed to listening and adapting, reducing regulatory burden, optimizing securities regulation and fostering capital formation.

The energy industry is critical to Canada’s economy, and it has undergone significant strain in recent years. This past year the sector was challenged by a complex set of issues that included low commodity prices, and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) considerations. The ASC takes a special interest in this sector given its importance to the Alberta economy. Despite the many challenges, this sector is resilient and continues to evolve and diversify. At ASC Connect in October 2020, our signature event for market participants, we had a number of experienced and knowledgeable business leaders join us for thoughtful panel discussions about what is possible for Alberta as we look ahead. We discussed real developments that are leading the way.

Our New Economy group continues to be highly engaged with entrepreneurs and our CSA colleagues in exploring the appropriate securities regulatory perimeter that should apply to the burgeoning fintech and crypto-asset space. Our participation in the CSA Sandbox allows entrepreneurs to test novel ideas in an experimental environment.

One of the benefits of provincial securities regulation is the ability to address local needs and last fiscal year we took steps to support the efforts to grow and diversify our Alberta economy. We provided new tools and resources at albertasecurities.com and we led efforts and worked with other securities regulators to provide new and proposed exemptions that would foster capital raising for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

We also support challenging the status quo. The ASC has been actively involved in the CSA’s review of Canada’s self-regulatory organization (SRO) framework. On August 3, 2021, recognizing the significant and long-term impacts on investors, market participants and our capital markets, the CSA published for comment its recommendation to create a new, single self-regulatory organization (SRO) that will consolidate IIROC and the MFDA. Two existing investor protection funds – the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the MFDA Investor Protection Corporation – will also be combined into an integrated fund independent of the new SRO. An Integrated Working Committee has been established to move this initiative forward.

As we prioritized the health and safety of our staff, we also took the opportunity to rethink how we work together and how we deliver our services. We adopted technology faster than we have before, and we enhanced our virtual engagement with market participants, investors and all of our stakeholders. In fact, in the past year we engaged more Albertans in more communities because of how we embraced technology.

Technology also enabled us to advance in our compliance, enforcement and education efforts. We didn’t miss a beat in monitoring and identifying issues, trends and risks. In our collaboration with other CSA members, we began using a new technological tool called the Market Access Platform, which will continue to enhance our market monitoring capability into the future. We also continued to hear cases, conducting our enforcement hearings remotely when required. I am pleased that, even with the challenges of the pandemic, we have been able to conduct timely and transparent enforcement and hold accountable those who breach securities laws.

Last year we launched our new three-year strategy that would enable us to foster resilience and respond to the prevailing economic climate, emergent trends, and new market realities. As our market continues to face many challenges, I believe our plan serves us well. We have affirmed that our pillars of intelligent regulation, proactive and comprehensive compliance oversight, enforcement, education and engagement will enable us to continue to serve the market and protect investors. As we continue to implement this new three-year strategic plan, I am heartened by its inherent flexibility and adaptability.

Despite the challenges our economy is weathering, Alberta continues to be an important market in Canada. As a regulator, we must continue to be transparent and efficient, and to act proactively and decisively in the interest of investors and other Alberta market participants. It is critical that we evaluate the trends in other domestic and international market regulations and standards to assess their suitability and impact in fostering a strong Alberta capital market. With our strategic plan to guide us, we are forging the path to achieve this.

Please see the adjacent pages for more details of each of the strategic pillars, and read our 2021 Annual Report for more information about our progress.   

With kind regards,

Stan Magidson

Pillar One: Intelligent regulation aimed at fostering a thriving capital market

Intelligently regulating the Alberta capital market is what we do. We strive to ensure that our regulatory regime is appropriate to the needs of our market, facilitates capital growth and promotes strong investor protection while not unduly burdening issuers and other market participants. We are keenly aware of the challenges the current economy is placing on market participants. We will continue to be mindful of proportionate regulation so as to not overstrain already struggling sectors.

Themes:

Reduce regulatory burden

All new laws, rules, policies and projects will be assessed to determine whether they add value, and to ensure there is due consideration of the costs of the regulation, compared to the benefits for Alberta’s unique capital market.

The ASC will continue to take part in the Government of Alberta’s red tape reduction initiatives and participate in the CSA burden reduction projects. Additionally, in an effort to support the resiliency and integrity of our capital market, the ASC will be implementing several of the initiatives identified through our Energizing Alberta’s Capital Market consultation with market participants.

Address emerging regulatory frontiers 

To keep pace with the rapidly changing Alberta market place and constantly evolving securities industry, we are continuing our work in a number of areas, including: 

  • Systemic Risk: The ASC plays a leadership role in the CSA Standing Committee on Systemic Risk, as well as the Heads of Agencies (HoA) and its Systemic Risk Surveillance Committee. The ASC also engages with the Financial Stability Board and the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) to actively monitor, analyze and consider how best to address risks that could impact markets nationally and internationally. 
  • Derivatives Markets: We will continue to develop a derivatives framework including the necessary compliance and surveillance tools required to ensure a practical and effective regime.
  • Financial Technology: We will continue to monitor technological innovation in the financial marketplace and its intersection with securities laws, and develop an appropriate regulatory response including, along with the CSA Sandbox Committee (regulatory sandbox), considering the regulation of entities using blockchain technology to trade securities and derivatives.

Leverage technology 

Technology plays an important role across industries, including financial services. The ASC is continuing to plan and explore how we can improve our use of existing technologies and incorporate new technologies to increase efficiency, expand the use of analytics and support opportunities to use evidence-based decision making.

Question the regulatory status quo

As regulators we must adapt to changing market conditions while providing a level of stability upon which market participants can depend. We will continue to work with the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) to be harmonized to the greatest extent possible, while still remaining a strong advocate for the unique needs of market participants in Alberta.  We will also continually monitor and research alternatives, scanning both the domestic and international regulatory environments to inform our position and policies on a variety of securities matters. Projects include a review of the self regulatory structure and the exempt market. 

Engage effectively with other regulators 

While our primary responsibility is to oversee the Alberta capital market, we must do so cooperatively and mindfully of regulations that govern other jurisdictions both nationally and internationally. With the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) bringing comparable accounting standards to the world’s capital markets, and the presence of new financial instruments such as crypto assets, securities regulation is increasingly complex and much of it occurs in an international arena. As such, we will continue to actively engage with the CSA, the HoA, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), IOSCO, and other national and international bodies, to stay informed, add value to the broader development of regulatory standards through our participation, and engage in areas that are critical to our being an effective, practical and intelligent regulator. 

Pillar Two: Proactive and comprehensive compliance oversight, enforcement and education

The ASC monitors current market activity, anticipates future challenges, collaborates with other organizations and acts decisively in order to promote confidence, inform and protect investors and support market integrity,

Themes:

Expand enforcement tools

As securities fraud and misconduct becomes ever more complex, crosses borders and incorporates new technologies to mislead investors and escape detection, it is imperative that we have access to the right information, expertise, processes and technology to detect ‘bad actors’ and analyze data and evidence. This will support both our effectiveness and efficiency in enforcement proceedings.

Our plans also include continuing to play a leadership role in combatting market manipulations internationally through an ASC-led Cross Border Market Fraud Initiative, and continuing to pursue outreach with partner agencies to share information and collaborate.

Ensure effective compliance oversight 

Delivering effective compliance oversight is central to the ASC’s regulatory responsibilities. Over the next three years, we will make any necessary changes to ensure that we are optimally positioned to respond to the needs of our market. We will continue to proactively identify emerging issues, trends, and risks in securities and derivatives market structures, as well as associated trading, dealing and advising. Our goal is to provide thought leadership, and intelligent policy development and implementation, in areas relevant to the Alberta capital market. 

Priority initiatives will include the operationalization of the client focused reforms and playing a meaningful role in the oversight of OBSI, including exploring implementing binding decision making. We will also continue to participate in the CSA project to protect elderly and vulnerable clients. 

Elevate cybersecurity 

Cyberattacks are attempts by hackers to damage or destroy computer systems or networks. While all organizations are at risk from this type of security infringement, as an organization with access to sensitive data we must be particularly vigilant in our efforts to protect that information. It is imperative that our data remains safe and that we take all necessary measures to maximize our cyber resilience.

Enhance investor education efforts to reach a broader audience 

Investment literacy is a life skill that helps investors grow and protect their hard-earned money. With longer life spans and fewer companies offering defined-benefit pensions, it is increasingly important that Canadians become knowledgeable about how to safely invest for their future. 

The ASC will continue its efforts to broaden investment literacy and enhance investor protection in Alberta. We plan to continue to enhance our consumer website, CheckFirst.ca, expanding tools and resources and empowering all Albertans to learn about investing. We will also actively expand our investor education outreach through partnerships and continue to conduct timely and frequent campaigns, leveraging data collected from our compliance and enforcement activities whenever possible. 

Pillar Three: Foster a culture of engagement

The collective knowledge and experience of staff at the ASC is the foundation of our success. Their efforts to build strong relationships with individuals and organizations that participate in Alberta’s capital market are a critical part of the administration of provincial securities laws. We must continue to foster a strong sense of collaboration, including seeking input from market participants and encouraging a two-way flow of information.

Themes:

Engage our employees and stakeholders

Regular, timely and relevant engagement with all of our stakeholders is critical to effective administration of Alberta’s securities laws. Our priority is to enhance communications and increase two-way dialogue with both internal and external stakeholders, addressing their needs and incorporating valuable feedback into future endeavours, as appropriate.

Enhance relationships with government and media

To promote efficient decision-making and harmonization, we will ensure we have regular and meaningful communication between appropriate Government of Alberta officials and senior management. 

In an effort to ensure our messages effectively reach and inform audiences, we continue to build relationships with media throughout Alberta, in addition to continually enhancing our digital communications properties. 

Staff retention, improvement and empowerment

We strive to ensure that employees have the right tools and resources to carry out their duties with proficiency, efficiency and consistency, and that projects and tasks that are pursued reflect strategic priorities. Additionally, we continue to provide a challenging and rewarding workplace that promotes employee recognition and invests in employee growth and development.

Organizational development

By engaging with employees, we will investigate opportunities for ongoing enhancements to the ASC workplace with a view to realizing our vision to be a best-in-class regulator.