Science and Business students win the 2021 BBFF Challenge

Friday, March 4, 2022
by Joieta Choudhury

The 2021 Building Better Financial Futures Challenge was first introduced to the students of Professor Igboeli’s Management of Business Organizations course (SCBUS 122) as an opportunity to earn bonus points towards their overall course mark. One year later, four Science and Business students reflect on their successful challenge submissions, the experience, and the rewarding feeling that comes with representing our program on a federal scale.

Hosted by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), the Building Better Financial Futures (BBFF) Challenge is a national student research paper competition that aims to provide both graduate and undergraduate students with an opportunity to develop data-driven solutions for communities in Canada facing financial obstacles. While the general guidelines of the student submissions are predetermined in alignment with the goals of the challenge, students are free to write their papers on a financial literacy problem of their own choosing where a financial and socioeconomic pain-area has been identified for a specific Canadian demographic.

The Science and Business program is beyond proud to share that the top paper selected for publishing in the undergraduate category for the 2021 BBFF Challenge was written by Waterloo’s Samantha Kremer and Katie Mah, in addition to the runner-up paper being written by Madeline Minnes and Tamar Saskin!

Samantha and Katie are both in their 2A term of the biology specialization and submitted their paper, Improving financial literacy in Indigenous communities, to the 2021 BBFF Challenge during the winter 2021 term. Their inspiration for the paper originated from the identification that the Indigenous population in Canada was disadvantaged in terms of their access to the financial marketplace. In response, Samantha and Katie proposed the introduction of educational financial literacy plans explicitly designed for the vulnerable community, while being led by members of the Indigenous population to facilitate and support the achievement of their financial goals.

As for the runners-up, Madeline and Tamar’s submission, Helping seniors navigate the financial marketplace through the use of financial technology, focuses on the growing digital nature of the financial marketplace and the navigational obstacles that are presented to Canadians over the age of 65 as a result. To support this technologically challenged demographic of the population, Madeline and Tamar proposed the implementation of support features and accessibility enhancements to digital banking applications, along with personalized support and training to encourage the vulnerable community towards embracing society’s digital financial transformation.

After being selected as the top two papers in the undergraduate category and presenting their respective proposals to a panel of members of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the winners have taken some time to reflect on their individual experiences of participating in the 2021 BBFF Challenge.


“What was the most rewarding part about your experience participating in this challenge?” 

The connections made throughout this experience was definitely the most rewarding aspect. I originally was going to complete the project individually but I’m beyond grateful Katie and I partnered up. Completing the paper really helped refine my research skills and taught me a lot about Canada’s culture but it also helped form a new friendship- which was quite difficult when you’re studying online in a different province than the rest of your classmates. I’ve learned a lot about financial literacy based on the projects of other recipients and I’m proud to have been recognized as a peer among these talented individuals. 

Photo of Samantha Kremer

“If you could participate in this challenge again, what would you do differently?” 

There’s not much I would do differently regarding the challenge. I think Katie and I worked well together, and I got to write about a piece I was very passionate about. If there was the chance to gather primary research and sources, I think that would help in solidifying our understanding on financial literacy among Indigenous communities as well as come up with a more versatile solution for different communities. 

“Why are the topics discussed in your paper significant or important?” 

Financial literacy is something that everyone should have the opportunity to develop. At the time of deciding on a topic I suggested Indigenous communities as a focus group as I live very close to the Kipohtakaw (Alexander First Nation) reserve in Alberta, and I’ve seen first-hand a difference in understanding when it came to monetary topics and building financial wealth. Even if our solution isn’t implemented, I’m satisfied with the knowledge gathered from the challenge and the chance for other individuals to read our work and learn something new. 



“What was the most rewarding part about your experience participating in this challenge?” 

The most rewarding part of participating in the BBFF Challenge for me was probably expanding my horizons. Although Sam and I originally submitted it for a SCBUS course, I enjoyed branching out from the school and its associated clubs/groups. It was also nice to meet the people working at the FCAC and attend their meetings and events. Participating in this also gave me a sense of accomplishment as seeing the final report and all our efforts come together was very satisfying. 

Photo of Katie Mah

“If you could participate in this challenge again, what would you do differently?” 

If I were to participate in this challenge again there wouldn’t be much I would change as the whole process was relatively enjoyable and manageable. Sam and I worked extremely well together and were very excited when we received the email about the result of our paper.

“Why are the topics discussed in your paper significant or important?” 

Our report discussed improving the financial literacy of Indigenous people on reserves, and it’s a very significant topic as it contributes to the segregation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous. We also communicated the overall differences in resources available and the effects of the education gap. Gaining more knowledge on managing finances and being active in the financial marketplace would begin decreasing these contrasts and be a step in the right direction. 



“What was the most rewarding part about your experience participating in this challenge?” 

The most rewarding part of the experience was the opportunity to meet with members of the FCAC  and present our work. After writing the paper and hearing that our paper was selected for Runner Up, I was very excited about the opportunity to share a little more about our paper and the inspirations

Photo of Tamar Saskin
behind it. Through the challenge, I was able to improve my writing, research, and presentation skills, all of which are practiced throughout the Science and Business Program. I truly found this opportunity to be a great way to apply the skills I have learned throughout my SCBUS degree to the real world, and I am grateful that Professor Igboeli introduced us to this meaningful opportunity.

“Why are the topics discussed in your paper significant or important?”  

The topics discussed in our paper are very important as financial technology becomes widespread within our society. The senior population has been rapidly growing over the years and it is crucial that seniors are not left behind in our transition to technology. There are many reasons for seniors to even be the first adopters of financial technology, as with increased age often comes decreased mobility and therefore the ability to conduct financial transactions from home is invaluable. 



"What was the most rewarding part about your experience participating in this challenge?” 

It was really rewarding to apply what we learned in classes about understanding consumer needs and making a strategy to meet them in a way that felt like we were making an impact. Especially after talking to those who ran the challenge, and seeing that our background in Science and Business had given us a unique approach to the challenge that they appreciated and found enticing. 

Photo of Madeline Minnes

“If you could participate in this challenge again, what would you do differently?” 

I would have integrated more of a financial approach into our problem solving, as we focused more on doing market research and brainstorming solutions based on our past experience. I think including a financial angle, as some other teams focused on, would have allowed us to come up with a more well-rounded solution and something that the government could have more easily acted on.

“Why are the topics discussed in your paper significant or important?” 

Financial literacy is a gateway to financial power in our current society, and not possessing it can be a huge barrier to individuals. This is even harder to stomach when you look at how closely tied financial literacy is to privilege and its maintenance. This challenge gave us an opportunity to address this problem head on, which I really appreciated. We chose to focus on technology based financial literacy in the aging population because it is an issue we've witnessed within our own families. We are familiar with the fear it can generate, and the way that aging individuals feel alienated despite wanting to participate and a growing sense of powerlessness over their own finances. No one should feel that way, especially when a solution is possible. 


On behalf of the Science and Business program, congratulations to Samantha, Katie, Madeline, and Tamar on your well-deserved success!