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  The Toronto Star Business Story   Mail this story to a friend
November 1, 2000   [Toronto Star]
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Deposit insurer comes out of the closet

[By Ellen Roseman] TURN ON THE TV TONIGHT and you'll probably see ads for Canada Savings Bonds and mutual funds.

But this fall, there's a different financial advertiser on news programs and daytime shows.

The Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. will be spending $2.4 million a year on a public education campaign to spread the following three-pronged message:

  • Some products, such as savings and chequing accounts and guaranteed investment certificates, are insured for up to $60,000 if a financial institution fails.

  • Other products, such as mutual funds and foreign currency accounts and term deposits of more than five years, are not insured.

  • Deposits held in registered plans, joint names and in-trust accounts are insured differently by CDIC.

    As you can imagine, this is not an easy message to get across on television.

    All I can remember from the ad I saw was how happy and relieved the woman looked after checking on the status of her deposit and finding it was protected.

    As for me, I'm relieved to see CDIC come out of the closet.

    This federal crown corporation, set up in 1967 and supported by 109 banks, trust companies and loan companies, has always kept a low profile.

    CDIC's job is to make sure you don't lose money if a member institution goes under. But to operate effectively, it has to tell you how the rules work in your own situation.

    Until now, you weren't getting much help from CDIC or member institutions in applying the rules - which are, admittedly, complex and hard to explain.

    Help is now available through CDIC's toll-free number (1-800-461-2342), its Web site ( and by e-mail ().

    While the ads began airing on Oct. 8, two weeks before the election call, they're not intended to boost the government or make you vote Liberal.

    The point, says CDIC communications director Laurie Jones, is to help you make informed choices on where you put your money.

    The crown corporation used to rely on financial institutions to spread the word. But bank and trust company staff had other jobs to do and weren't trained to explain the technicalities of CDIC rules.

    At one point, Ottawa was so worried about misleading information it passed a law not allowing banks to tell customers which products were insured by the CDIC.

    But this didn't stop the confusion.

    As Canadians continued to move from low-rate deposits into mutual funds - and to buy both products from banks - they didn't know what was CDIC-insured and what was not.

    The abysmal state of awareness was revealed in a CDIC public-opinion survey done earlier this year by Ekos Research.

    When asked if mutual funds were CDIC-insured, 33 per cent of respondents said yes. Another 40 per cent didn't know.

    The bottom line: Just over one in four Canadians realized that mutual funds were not insured.

    When asked if Canada Savings Bonds are CDIC-insured, 66 per cent said yes.

    That's wrong. CSBs are fully backed by the government of Canada up to $200,000. They're not subject to the CDIC's $60,000 maximum.

    As for stocks, 27 per cent of respondents thought they were CDIC-insured. I hope those deluded folks weren't holding Nortel shares during last week's meltdown and getting false comfort from the thought their money was protected.

    Another interesting result: 92 per cent of respondents said the most important factor when making an investment was protecting themselves against a financial institution's failure.

    The Ekos survey gave CDIC the impetus to devote more money to raising public awareness. Its campaign will run at least two years, maybe longer.

    The current TV ads will air until mid-November, and then pick up again in late January and February. There will also be ads on Internet portals, such as and

    Next March, CDIC plans to run another survey to see if consumer knowledge has improved.

    To see how much you know about deposit insurance, go to CDIC's Web site. On the English home page, click on ``Your Deposit Insurance Check-up'' and then click ``The CDIC Challenge: Test Your Knowledge.'' I scored 10 out of 10, but I've studied this stuff. Most people get only five or six right, says Jones.

    While you're there, try out the interactive deposit insurance calculator. It guides you through a set of questions on your deposits and tells you what insurance coverage you would have if the institution goes under.

    Ellen Roseman's column appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. You can reach her by writing Your Business c/o The Toronto Star, 1 Yonge St., Toronto M5E 1E6; by phone at (416) 945-8687; by fax at (416) 865-3630; or at by e-mail.

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