Culture and Talent

Silicon Valley North: Canada is poised to attract fintech talent

  • Talk of tightening of the U.S. H1B visa program has led many entrepreneurs to consider Canada as a base for operations.
  • MaRS, an innovation hub based in Toronto, has been helping startups recruit international talent.

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Silicon Valley North: Canada is poised to attract fintech talent

Talk of changes to the U.S. H-1B visa program has opened the path for Canadian challengers aiming to snap up talent that would normally flow to American coasts.

“The Canadian fintech landscape is utilizing this to expedite their ability to bring people in,” said Andre Garber, director of Dentons Canada Startup Program, an initiative to help startups grow their reach in the market.

A recent Indeed study reported that H1B job seekers, Canada was the most searched destination for the first half of 2017. Startups operating in Canada say enabling rules offer them the flexibility to easily fill skill gaps.

“There’s a sense of instability that the new [U.S.] administration has established,” said Dinaro Ly, director of fintech and commerce at the MaRS Discovery District, an innovation hub in Toronto whose space houses the Canadian arms of major tech companies (including Facebook, AirBnB, PayPal and Etsy) and whose network includes 1000 startups, 60 of which focus on finance and commerce. MaRS mentors the startups, connects them with investors and works with them to recruit international talent. It says it’s noticed an uptick in talent coming to Canada.

“We are more than capable of establishing a foundation that is welcome and open and inclusive,” said Ly.

The ability of the Canadian fintech ecosystem to support its growth in Canada is brought on by recent changes to immigration rules, he said. Employees with in-demand skills can now get work-permit applications processed in two weeks, and a startup visa program offers entrepreneurs a fast track to permanent residence in Canada provided they can confirm required levels of support from designated venture capital funds, angel investor groups and business incubators.

Philip Barrar, founder and CEO at personal finance startup Mylo, said he recently hired three employees from the U.S. and one from Pakistan. Barrar, who is a dual Canadian and American national, said Canada’s favorable environment for entrepreneurs, which includes subsidies for research and development and a lower cost of living were reasons to locate his business in Canada.

Meanwhile, for WorldRemit, which is headquartered in the U.K. but has offices in six countries including Canada, an advantage of having operations in Canada is flexibility to recruit people as needs allow.

“We have IT support facilities both in London and Denver, but ultimately as we grow, it can be envisaged that down the road we will require closer proximity support which will lead to recruitment in Canada,” said Richard Meseko, Canada country director.  

Despite strong growth of venture-capital backed fintech investments in Canada (they reached their highest level in almost two decades last year at $137.7 million) it’s still a fraction of venture-backed fintech investments in the U.S., which for the same year was $4.27 billion.

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