Watching over Canada's banks

Canada's top prudential financial watchdog holds a bachelor of arts in economics from the University of New Brunswick.

UNB alumna Julie Dickson is the Federal Superintendant of Financial Institutions.Julie Dickson is the Federal Superintendant of Financial Institutions. It's her job to regulate and supervise Canada's banks, insurance companies and private pension plans.

There's no such thing as a ‘typical day' for Dickson, who splits her time primarily between Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) offices in Ottawa and Toronto and regularly travels the world to represent OSFI at international meetings.

"Financial services is a global industry, and there's a lot of effort spent to try to ensure that the rules are the same around the world," she explains.

Dickson oversees all of OSFI, which shapes the supervisory and regulatory frameworks of financial institution policy for all of Canada.

"The breadth of responsibilities is quite challenging," she says. "We like a challenge. You're also seeing first-hand what financial institutions' plans are, and how they are dealing with the challenges they face. Seeing it across the whole sector can be very exciting."

Life long interest

Dickson's interest in financial institutions began earlier than one would think - she first fell in love with banks at the age of 10.

"I remember walking into a bank branch and thinking it was a very fascinating place," she says.

While attending UNB Fredericton, Dickson spent her summers working at a bank. She attended graduate school in Ontario before she started her career with the Department of Finance in Ottawa, working in the Capital Markets group.

"Next to my office was the group that dealt with the Bank Act. I immediately thought ‘that's where I'd like to be.' It's where I went after a year."

After 15 years with the Department of Finance, Dickson moved to an Ottawa consulting firm and then to the Privy Council Office, serving the Prime Minister, before taking a position at OSFI.

Having worked with OSFI for much of her time with the Department of Finance, joining its office as a special adviser was an easy move for Dickson. Within a short period of time, she had become Assistant Superintendent of the Regulation Sector, and then she was appointed Deputy Superintendent a few years later.

Dickson was appointed as Superintendent of Financial Institutions in July 2007.

She and her colleagues at OSFI are all there for the same reason, she says.

"We like the fast pace and the intellectual challenge. I think we have a lot of fun at the same time as we're working hard."

Tight-knit community

UNB is a big part of Dickson's family.

"We have six kids in the family and they all went to UNB," she says.

Julie remembers her own time at UNB for the people and the size - its small classes and close community made it easy to make friends and be engaged.

"I lived in Lady Dunn Hall, and that was a lot of fun. You meet many people and I made a lot of friends," she says. "Some of my classes only had six to 10 students. I liked the atmosphere and the small campus."

Being able to talk to professors with ease also enhanced her UNB experience.

"The fact that you could get to know the professors was a very positive thing," she says. "They work very hard at what they do."