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Real-Time Rail, real-time headache

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Plus: Toronto’s lead over other Canadian cities widens in startup ecosystem rankings.

There’s disappointment from all sides of the industry about the lag to get the Real-Time Rail payments system running. That’s what audience members at the Payments Canada Summit heard Ron Morrow, an executive at the Bank of Canada responsible for payments oversight, say Thursday.

FinTechs seeking access to RTR—once it’s live for industry testing in 2026—have to register in November with the central bank, which will supervise the companies’ regulatory compliance under the Retail Payments Activities Act. In an interview after his speech, Morrow said he’s heard from other jurisdictions that “sometimes” FinTechs aren’t used to being regulated and he’s not entirely sure what to expect come registration time, but he’s “hopeful that we’ve laid enough groundwork for folks on this.”

The “real concern” though, Borrowell CEO Andrew Graham said, is that payments modernization “is so far behind schedule.” RTR was supposed to go live in 2019. “Without that in place, many FinTechs may simply opt to wait, calculating that the benefit to being regulated isn’t worth the cost,” Graham told me.

For years, the Bank of Canada has been advising these companies to “be ready” for regulatory change, while FinTechs have been saying they’re ready. Morrow acknowledged the mounting frustration for companies that have seen the system delayed many times, but said “what’s important now is that we move with as much experience as possible.”

Thanks for reading on and ‘til next week,

Bianca Bharti

Newsletter Editor

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