The Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) is publishing this statement amid the public health crisis caused by COVID-19 in order to inform industry and the general public of its main orientations of the past few months and those planned for the current year.

The COVID-19 pandemic, due to both its sudden emergence and its intensity, is causing an unprecedented shock to the Québec, Canadian and global economies. To contain the spread of the virus, most countries have temporarily closed their borders and implemented lockdown measures, including closing non-essential businesses, imposing travel restrictions and cancelling events, which, over the last few months, have brought a large portion of economic activity to a standstill. These drastic measures have saved lives but have also caused severe economic and financial upheaval.

Stock price volatility and pressures on market liquidity and credit quality are just some of the significant risks that will continue to pose challenges, over the short- and medium-term, for the financial sector and the protection of financial consumers.

Major efforts made to deal with the immediate shocks

From the very outset of the crisis, the AMF has focused on responding to the many issues that have emerged by redeploying its resources to activities vital to ensuring financial system resilience. Over the last few months, it has taken actions in the following key areas:

1. Business continuity

The AMF implemented its business continuity plans and transitioned the vast majority of its employees to remote work. The transition went smoothly, with the AMF remaining fully operational.

2. Consumer protection

The AMF carried out several actions and information campaigns aimed at protecting consumers in times of crisis, including a television and web-based awareness campaign and fraud prevention webinars. The AMF also increased its financial support to front-line organizations dedicated to helping consumers.

3. Monitoring and surveillance activities

The AMF set up an intersectoral COVID-19 monitoring group tasked with anticipating and analyzing the actual and potential impacts of the crisis on the financial system. Major efforts are also being made to enhance monitoring of the risks that many entities regulated by the AMF are exposed to and to effectively respond to situations that could compromise their financial stability. The AMF has also stepped up its market surveillance activities to ensure market integrity during times of turbulence.

4. National and international collaboration and cooperation

The AMF is participating actively and on an even more sustained basis in discussions in national and international regulatory forums in order to share findings from the crisis and develop coordinated responses to mitigate the effects of the crisis and stabilize the markets.

Several measures have resulted from this, including:

5. Operational relief measures

In addition to the actions taken in coordination with other regulators, the AMF has taken many steps to mitigate the crisis’ impact on entities regulated by the AMF and allow them to focus on the continuity of their business and limit as much as possible the impact of the pandemic on the clienteles they serve.

Several measures have resulted from this, including:

  • The AMF has ensured that market structures, such as exchanges, alternative trading systems, clearing agencies and trade repositories, have developed strategies to deal with the pandemic.
  • Continuous disclosure filing deadlines have been extended for reporting issuers.
  • Multiple measures have been introduced for financial sector participants (insurance and financial planning firms and representatives, money-services businesses, insurers, deposit institutions and trust companies), including temporary adjustments to capital adequacy and liquidity guidelines, fee payment deferrals, and an extension of the validity period for expired certificates.
  • Temporary exceptional measures have been put in place, including actions to mitigate the impact of the suspension of exams on career entry, extending certificate renewal and maintenance of registration deadlines, and deferring the payment of fees for service requests from certified representatives and registered firms and independent representatives.

Postponing the launch of a new strategic plan for a year

Amid major uncertainty and in light of the potential effects that the crisis will have on Québec’s financial sector, the AMF has decided to postpone the launch of its new strategic plan to April 1, 2021, so it can use the coming months to properly analyze the situation, confirm the merits of the planned strategic orientations and, if necessary, make any adjustments.

Therefore, in 2020-2021, the AMF will continue to implement its 2017–2020 Strategic Plan (pdf - 4 MB)This link will open in a new windowUpdated on 29 May 20172017-2020 Strategic Plan, the main orientations of which—demonstrate the organization’s leadership, added value and ability to innovate; strengthen its role as a local regulator close to its markets; and invest in its performance—continue to be entirely relevant for the purpose of guiding the organization in these tumultuous times.

Organizational priorities amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The AMF believes that responding effectively and proactively to the actual and potential impacts of the pandemic on consumers and Québec’s financial sector is critical.

The AMF also recognizes the importance of preparing for a new post-crisis normal and intends to take note of trends that are emerging in this time of profound change, including in governance and data valorization and with respect to the need to adapt technology and management practices in order to work and interact remotely.

It has accordingly identified five key areas of prioritization for the current year that will give the organization the necessary flexibility to fulfill its mission, adapt and seize opportunities as circumstances evolve.

1. Consumer protection

The AMF will continue to invest significantly in protecting financial consumers made more vulnerable by the crisis to potential fraud, illegal practice and misrepresentations. The AMF will ensure that it responds effectively to new consumer issues and needs that may have become exacerbated during the crisis, including by:

  • acquiring a deeper knowledge of Quebeckers’ financial habits in order to tailor the tools it offers to current issues and make them available on modern distribution platforms based on the various clienteles.
  • continuing to optimally leverage its partnerships in financial education and consumer protection and rely on its Financial Products and Services Consumers Advisory Committee.
  • making the development of a robust framework to better protect vulnerable individuals a priority and ensuring that the industry handles complaints efficiently.
  • simplifying access to its assistance services by consumers who are dissatisfied with the way their file has been handled.
  • pursuing its work on the incentive management practices of financial institutions, the framework for segregated funds and the banning of trailing commissions paid by mutual funds.

2. Sustained monitoring of the economic and financial environment

The AMF will continue to give priority to its monitoring and oversight activities so it can closely track the evolving economic and financial crisis caused by the pandemic and respond agilely and effectively to emerging issues. It will make significant efforts to monitor the actual and potential impacts of the crisis on Québec’s financial sector. It will also continue to work jointly with industry members to identify solutions and actions to mitigate the most significant risks, particularly in terms of operational incident management and business continuity.

3. Leadership, collaboration and cooperation in national and international forums

The AMF will continue to work with multiple national and international regulators to deliver a coordinated response as the crisis evolves. It will seek to maintain its leadership and a high level of collaboration and cooperation within these forums in order to promote and implement measures that will strengthen financial system resilience.

Specifically, it will increase its efforts to optimize the compliance burden of the entities it regulates by actively contributing to the work being carried out in this respect within the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) and the Credit Union Prudential Supervisors Association (CUPSA). It will also leverage its new affiliation with the Mortgage Broker Regulators’ Council of Canada (MBRCC) resulting from the transfer of mortgage brokerage supervision to the AMF on May 1, 2020.

4. Governance and data science

With technology and data science needs becoming more pressing, the AMF will rachet up efforts and deploy more resources to accelerate its data valorization strategy. These efforts will enable the AMF to improve its performance by enhancing its operational and decision-making processes and will ultimately result in improved monitoring, surveillance and consumer assistance services.

5. Ability to adapt to the new environment

In responding to this crisis, the AMF has demonstrated its agility and its ability to adapt to the new environment created by the pandemic. In terms of human resources, the AMF will focus, first and foremost, on ensuring the health, safety and engagement of its employees. The AMF will also continue to develop its operational and management approaches. In particular, it will accelerate the implementation of new means of interacting remotely both internally and externally.

The AMF will prioritize its actions based on the above themes and will continue to deploy the resources needed to maintain day-to-day operations and carry out other important initiatives, including regulatory development stemming from the implementation of the An Act mainly to improve the regulation of the financial sector, the protection of deposits of money and the operation of financial institutions (Bill 141), and the continuing work relating to the SEDAR+ project, which involves redesigning the national securities system, resulting in the replacement of the current systems by a more secure and better performing integrated system.

Lastly, the AMF will take advantage of the lessons learned during this period of crisis to adjust its regulatory framework to reflect the changes that will have taken place. The impact of the relief measures implemented since the beginning of the crisis will have to be evaluated, as will the need to keep them in place after the crisis over.

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