Two Weeks In Canada – An In-Depth Interview With A Savvy New Canadian
Watch our VP of Cultural Markets and Financial Services, Bernice Cheung, interview recent immigrant to Canada, Sumantra De. Sumantra is a seasoned research, insights and advisory professional who holds an MBA and PMP certification from India. We spoke with him two weeks after he immigrated to Canada with his wife while the experience was still fresh and took an in-depth look at his settlement journey, including his reasons for choosing Canada, his concerns about settlement, his support system in Canada, and his search for housing, banking, and a job.
I landed at 5:30 in the morning and at 4:30 in the evening I was at RBC bank opening up an account
Sumantra is a prime example of the new savvy Canadian newcomer profile. Six in ten recent immigrants to Canada come through economic immigration programs and surpass the Canadian average when it comes to employment earnings. Recent immigrants are also, on average, more educated than the Canadian born population. They are three times as likely (16.7%) to have a master’s degree or PhD degree than those born in Canada (5%).
With Sumantra’s high level of education and skill and his ready willingness to contribute to the Canadian economy, we’re fairly certain that he will build a prosperous life here.
Click on a topic below to watch that portion of the interview
Why were you interested in immigrating to Canada?
Bernice: So, why did you decide to immigrate and why Canada?
Sumantra: Sure. So, you know, traditionally, from a professional experience perspective, I’ve always been into management consulting and research and I’ve worked with firms like Deloitte and KPMG, but, you know, being an India, I was always on the back end of it. Right. So, I really didn’t know, you know, how my report was being used, you know, the analysis or experience that I leveraged, that my partners leveraged onshore. How were they really used? So, one of the key aspects was really moving on shore and being a part of them. Really knowing the marketplace in originality and being there, serving your clients directly. The other aspect is, you know, while I was looking at an option onshore, there were a couple of options there in front of me in terms of where can I, can I immigrate, but I believe Canada was the most forthcoming as a country. You know, the kind of cosmopolitan environment here was very welcoming. I also like the fact that, you know, there were people of Indian origin and other Asian origin who were kind of looking at options and opportunities here. That basically means Canada, as a country, is pretty welcoming. So, from a quality of life perspective, I thought that’s a great place to be in. So, I’m married and we both thought, both me and my wife we thought, it’s the best part of the world to probably immigrate to.
Bernice: That’s great, that’s great to hear.
What counties had you considered immigrating to and why did you choose Canada?
Bernice: Aside from Canada have you considered other countries and why? Why did you choose those countries as your sort of your set of criteria?
Sumantra: Sure, that’s a great question. So, I think the only other country that is considered was Australia. I think primarily from the perspective that, you know, typically when you’re about 10-12 years of experience one of the key aspects you look at is which is a country where there is a possibility for you to get a job. It doesn’t matter what kind of jobs and what positions but how convenient is it for you to get those jobs. And I think when I was connecting to this question one of the things that I immediately thought about is the clients that I served. Throughout my career I had the privilege of serving clients primarily in North America and very less on Australia side although I have a global experience. But it’s been North America followed by Western Europe. So, I thought, you know, Canada was probably the best option for me because, you know, I could understand their culture and understand that we speak. Probably would speak with them and be a part of them. So that’s why I chose Canada.
Bernice: Ok. So you said job search was one of your key criteria. Do you have family in Canada?
Sumantra: No, I don’t have any extended family here. It’s just me and my wife who have immigrated here. We do have a couple of friends who have helped us with our initial stay and expenses and everything but otherwise, no. I mean, yeah, I mean, my only thing at the end of the day is I’m looking to make a family here but not as of now.
Had you ever been to Canada prior to immigrating?
Bernice: So have you been to Canada prior to immigrating to Canada?
Sumantra: No Bernice. The only place in North America I’ve been to the U.S.. Not Canada.
Bernice: Wow. So that must be a pretty big leap of faith for you.
Sumantra: Absolutely. And I think, you know, I mean the fact that, you know, I had a certain expectation in terms of faith when I came over from India is actually making sense because I’ve spent about two and a half weeks here and they’ve been absolutely fantastic. I mean, people that I’ve met, the culture here, that’s exactly what I expect and I’m loving it.
Bernice: Oh that’s amazing to hear. So your expectations were fulfilled.
Sumantra: Oh yes.
What were some of your top reservations or concerns coming to Canada?
Bernice: So what were some of your top concerns prior to coming to Canada? So, you said a career move is your main motive and diversity is one of the key components of choosing Canada.
Bernice: Did you have any reservations or concerns about coming to Canada?
Sumantra: Well good. That’s, again, a great question. So, I really wouldn’t call it reservations or concerns, but I think I had certain questions in mind. On one hand, you know, I know that if I go to Canada, the quality of life will improve. I know if I go to Canada there are a lot of things that I would learn from a marketplace standpoint being front-ending with the clients. But, I think the questions that I had in my mind, not necessarily concerns, are, you know, where do I really find a house for myself? To start with on rent, I’d heard about, I mean, Canada is a huge country, right? So, should I land in Toronto? Should I go to Vancouver? Which is the right place for me and why? You know, then I land there. What are the kinds of expenses, I would, I would have to bear? Do I get everything that I get it back in India? Where, you know, what are some of the banking facilities available and which is the right one for me? So, I think these are the questions that I had initially when I was looking at. So, it was primarily from a settlement perspective not really from a country perspective. You know, in terms of the questions that I had.
How did decide where to settle in Canada?
Bernice: And were you able to find some the answers to these settlement questions?
Sumantra: Well absolutely. You know, God invented mankind and man invented Google. So, you know, you know, you get everything Google, right? So yeah, I did. I think, I just, I just approached it one at a time. So I think, you know, I looked at the expenses. I did some second research in terms of, and research is something that I’ve been doing anyway so, I kind of used the right keywords. I looked at some of the options. I went to some of online grocery stores, figured out what are the costs. Then I did a rough calculation. Spoke to my friends, figured out, for a family of two, how much would it cost, so on and so forth. Then, for example, went to banking. Banking was another aspect where I was not just looking at, from or, from a chequing or savings account perspective. I was also looking from a job perspective. So, I was looking at their career, or so, when it was looking at some of the job sites, names like, you know, CIBC RBC TD, you know, all of these names came up. So, it was good. I mean, I just went to the bank sites, figured out some of the options. So, that’s the way I kind of addressed one at a time.
The Canadian Banking Experience
Was there anything about the banking experience in Canada that surprised you?
Bernice: So you had mentioned banking as one of your concerns. I’d love to know a little bit more about your banking experience while you were in India and were there anything that surprised you or shocked you when you came to Canada?
Sumantra: Sure. So, you know, the basic difference between the banking in India is, you really don’t have something called a chequing or savings. I mean, you have a savings account and you have fix deposits. So, I think even the concept of what is a chequing account. I think, I was very curious and, you know, being in research, I always have this curiosity and what I would call it is the, you know, the intellectual, you know, kind of engagement, right? So, I spend a bit of time on really understanding what is chequing? What is savings? What’s going to be the best for me because, you know, when I initially land in Canada, I may not have a job. So, what should I start with and why should I do that, right? So, I went to each of those bank websites. I researched about their products. You know, interestingly enough, I saw a lot of the banks like, you know, RBC and TD, they had actually newcomer accounts and account programs. So, I was pretty delighted because, you know, that also kind of helped me get a stronger feeling that Canada, as a country, is actually welcoming. Because, you know, I mean, there is a bank which actually manages your funds and your funds is kind of the backbone to your life and for your daily expenses. So, you know, they’re giving an offer. They are giving multiple offers, actually, to newcomers. So, I think, you know, I spent slowly and steadily. Then, I also figured out, I also have some of the videos on YouTube. You know, I read some of the messages, you know, in terms of, in terms of, what does banks are doing. Have been doing while they’re expanding just to get an understanding of how secured that institution is overall. So, this is the typical I think, you know, I may sound a bit finicky coming from research, but that’s exactly what I’ve done just to just to be very sure about, you know, whether I want to eventually go when where I don’t want to open up my account.
How long after you arrived did you open your first Canadian account?
Bernice: And did you open the bank account right when we got here and how long did it take you?
Sumantra: That’s, that’s you know, the reason why you see me smiling is because I landed on 4th at 5:30 in the morning in Toronto and at 4:30 in the evening I was in RBC Bank, alright, opening up an account. So, it could be. So, you know, couple of things. So, one of the things I knew that, you know, when you land there, to open up an RBC account. Canada is a country which considers your credit history very important, right? So, I knew that RBC’s was giving you credit cards along with it. I also knew that, when you open up an account, it will take about seven to ten working days for you to get those cards and use them. So yeah, I was. I was kind of mentally prepared and I wasn’t too tired really coming on a long flight because I was sleeping all throughout. So, I was fresh enough to go to a bank speak to an adviser. So, that day I covered both TD and RBC. RBC was there in the mind, but I still thought I’d rather go to TD and had a chat with them. But it closed in an on RBC.
Bernice: Ok. So you really sort of interviewed two banks and you chose RBC.
Sumantra: That’s right. That’s right.
Did you talk with you advisor about financial planning strategies?
Bernice: So, did she talk to you about sort of registered savings accounts or TSFA’s and how it works in Canada?
Sumantra: Sure, I did. I mean, not through the details of how they work. I definitely had an idea about TSFA’s and I definitely have an idea about the savings account. As I said, that when I opened a chequing account, a savings account came in kind of as a partner product. But, I plan to use the savings account really well at a certain point of time depending on, you know, how and when I can get settled. But yeah. I mean, I got a fair idea. But, interestingly enough, I also have a friend… actually it’s not a friend actually, it’s my friend’s friend, who works in TD. I just discovered three days back. So, I just spoke to him as well. So, I think, you know, probably get some more details both from a TD well as an RBC perspective and then probably compare and choose the best.
The Canadian Housing Experience
How has your housing experience in Canada been?
Bernice: And how’s you’re renting… your search for a new place looking?
Sumantra: That’s being good because, you know, that’s another search that I’d done and I’d heard a lot of people think it takes about a month to month and a half to get a house because, you know, you have sort of choices and then, you know, the rent has gone up really high and you have to be careful in the amount that you chooses because you don’t have a job here. I was pretty lucky that way because I got a house in 10 days, right? And, you know, I’ve now moved to Scarborough, right? So, one of the only constraint that I had was I wanted to stay close to a subway. So, right now fortunately, I’ve got a house on rent, which is three minutes walk from the subway station. So yeah.
Bernice: So you’re all settled now.
Sumantra: Yeah, I mean, Canada is really, I mean, you know, I’m very happy with this country. I mean, you know, I think I’m much more light and much delighted. I think, you know, you just mentioned a point to look at that, you know, in terms of my expectations here. I mean, it’s I mean, right now settling down well. I just hope I get a job soon.
Bernice: And then you’re set.
Sumantra: Yes then I’m set.
Research Prior To Immigration
What were some of the things you’d heard about Canada prior to coming?
Bernice: So, what are some of the things that you’ve heard about Canada prior to coming to Canada?
Sumantra: Sure. You know, one thing I touched upon is the fact that it’s as a country it’s very cosmopolitan in nature. You know, you get people from different backgrounds, you know, different ethnicities, different places. You get to meet with them. I’ve heard about it’s beauty. I’ve seen a lot of videos and YouTubes and researched as well. So yeah, I think all in all, you know, when I spoke to my friends, I think the one thing that was common across, that came that, the one thing that was common that came across was the quality of life here, which is amazing. And I think, yeah, I mean, it seems that, you know, I’ve experienced a lot in the last two weeks. So yeah, I’m enjoying it.
Bernice: So, diversity is a key component of why you chose Canada.
Sumantra: Absolutely, for sure.
What Indian resources did you use when deciding where to settle?
Bernice: Were there specific resources in India that you used aside from online that helped you with these settlement questions?
Sumantra: I mean, primarily I think the only other thing, other than online, was speaking to, speaking to friends and their friends. So, what I did was, they connected with my friends and I asked them to introduce me to more people. So, I spoke to them a lot and, you know, I pretty much had a kind of questionnaire designed for myself and it kind of repeated the same question with multiple people and just to see that there are gaps in, kind of, the information that I’m getting versus all the similarities and I think that’s the way I kind of gauged in terms of what I should do.
Bernice: That’s great. So you have a lot of resources you know in Canada already with their own network of friends that they reached out to on your behalf as well.
Sumantra: Absolutely. And, you know, it was easier, right? So, when you have someone, right? So, when you have someone who acts to you as an adviser, he tells you about the pros and the cons, so you get to know the good side and the not so good side of it. So, you’re prepared for it. The not so good side, it’s not a concerning one, but it helps you prepare mentally better because you’re moving to a new country. You know, at the age that I have, which is not a very young. So, it’s kind of that’s what’s interesting.
What resources helped you prepare for your banking experiences coming into Canada?
Bernice: So, where there are resources in India that you, like any workshops or seminars that you attended in India that were accessible for you?
Sumantra: Not in India. But, I did attend two webinars from India. So, these webinars were done from Canada. So, one was surely from RBC, right? And there was another one, which was prerecorded from another bank. I think that was TD, to be honest, right? So, yes. I definitely, definitely attended those webinars and heard them. I really got a sense of what they were trying to say. The good part of attending webinars is, you know, there are different people who ask questions and there are certain questions, you know, you don’t recollect and that gets asked by someone else. So, you get a far broader sense of, you know, what the products what the services are. And that was really really helpful.
Bernice: And so what did you end up going with?
Sumantra: So, eventually I ended up going with RBC, right? Because I thought that, you know, there was a certain sense of, I think professionalism in the services, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And I’m not discounting anyone else for that matter. But, I think what I loved is they have a newcomer advantage program. You know, when I, when they actually… what I also did was, that I actually went to an RBC Bank, spoke to a couple of advisors. I loved the way they actually made me understand, you know, they were very welcoming. They knew that I’d be coming from a different background, so they actually told me that, what are included what are not included… You know, one of my key concerns was, if I earn here, I’m going to send some money back home to my family. What kind of facilities available? I think, I love that spec, in terms of the coverage, that RBC Bank had up from. I also met an advisor in TD. I loved the way he also dealt with me. There is no doubt about it, but I think, someway of the other, I feel RBC’s is a bit more closer to my heart, in terms of, I could connect to the bank a bit more and thats why I opened up an account there.
How did you hear about online banking resources available to you ahead of your immigration?
Bernice: You also mentioned that when you were looking at different banks you had some Web, online webinars.
Bernice: How did you hear about these webinars?
Sumantra: What I did was that I actually contacted few government Canadian government sponsored agencies and I’d actually kind of built up contacts with them relationships with them and entered my details into the database, right? And so, one of the options was to know it from there and then once I knew that there was a webinar, I then sourced it to either their website or on YouTube about some of the past webinars. Or a past, let’s say for example, video that was available and that’s the way I did that.
Banking Products and Usage
What banking products have you used or are using here in Canada?
Bernice: And so, may I ask what kind of products you have with them? So, the chequing, savings, do you have a safety deposit box?
Sumantra: Sure. So, yes. So, RBC’s newcomer advantage program had a chequing account along with the savings account also came up, right? So, I took both of them and I opened one for myself and opened one for my spouse. They also had a facility for a long safety deposit box I think, which was free for two years. But, then I thought, I don’t need really right now because I wasn’t carrying too much of, or kind of precious ornaments, here right now because it’s new to me. So, I thought I’d rather let it go at this point of time. So, I had an option choose that. I did not. And credit card of course was the other option that came in free. So they had options and there were different features along with, some credit cards had cashback, some had a low interest rate. So, I preferred the low interest rate and chose that one.
What methods have you considered in terms of remittances back to India?
Bernice: And you also mentioned about remittances, sending money back to India. Well have you, you know, consider ways of doing it just for the RBC Bank or other alternatives?
Sumantra: Sure. So, I think, you know, I would have… I already have an account in a bank called ICICI Bank. They have a downtown branch as well. And, you know, they also have a facility for, you know, you know, getting the money from abroad to India. I just have to connect those accounts with the RBC one. The RBC gives me a good facility, I mean, good remittance facility. I can transfer money anywhere. I think the cost is pretty decent. Although, I would have loved it if I would have got an offer for first year free kind of thing because, you know, it’s just still a settlement period for me. But, yeah. I mean, it’s… it’s always good to have something than nothing. So, I think I got a good deal.
How do you decide which bank account you use for which services or purchases?
Bernice: And on top of RBC and ICICI do you have any other bank accounts that you access to?
Sumantra: Yes. Back in India, but not here, I have an account with Standard Chartered Bank.
Bernice: Okay. And do you have designated specific products or type of usage to each bank?
Sumantra: That’s a great question. Yes. Not type of products, but types of usage for sure. So, the standard banking is more for me to not use it for on an ongoing basis. So, it’s more for me wherever I have an extra amount that I can save. I can just put it there. ICICI for me, or let’s say an RBC, for me will be more from a chequing perspective to start with. My intention is, if RBC… if my relationship with RBC really goes well, I’m going to utilize my savings account a lot because I want to kind of start dumping money there. Because, you know, I would need that for future use. But yeah, I mean, my way of shortlisting or my perimeter of shortlisting a financial institution is primarily my type of usage and not necessarily products.
How are you utilizing your ICICI account in Canada?
Bernice: And you mentioned ICICI. So you have an ICICI account in India that you also have an account that you also have access to here?
Sumantra: Sure. So, what I’m going to do is… So, when back at home, what I did was, I actually worked with ICICI bank to actually start to initiate the process of changing my savings account to an NRE account, right? So, that’s a nonresident account, right? So, I already initiate the process. The only thing that’s pending is, I need to give them my home address proof here which is my agreement with the contract copy and a couple of other details, which I have now. So, I have to just scan and send them across and that will get converted. The moment it gets converted I have to link that with my RBC account and I can transfer money.
Bernice: And so, why did you choose to have an RBC account on top of your ICICI account?
Sumantra: That’s… that’s more like, I would say, going with the wind or flowing with the tide. So, I think, you know, the presence that TD and RBC has really strong. I… and you know, it’s just not about doing research by just going to the websites. I’ve read several blogs, I’ve read several forums. People were talking a lot about these two banks and specific, to be honest. CIBC is another I’ve heard a lot. There’s a new one that I’ve heard just, I think three days before coming, that’s called the President’s Choice, which is, I think, that’s a starter sister organization of CIBC. So yeah, I mean, I’ve been… I’ve been reading a lot about those. I’ve been trying to get views of in terms of what’s been good, what’s been not so good and I kind of weigh that I thought these banks really stand out. And its also a good option for me to have an account here because I’m sure I’ll get a lot more facilities going forward. And tomorrow if I’m settled and if I were a buyer, let’s say, a mortgage and get a mortgage. That’s a two years, two and a half years down the line. I’m assuming that, you know, RBC would give me a much better facility, being a Canadian bank, then ICICI.
How does the role of technology in banking differ from India to Canada?
Bernice: I wanted to actually know a little bit about how technology plays a role in financial services in India and how that differs… different in Canada.
Sumantra: Sure. I think the first thing that, Bernice, we need to remember is the development in India has been, you know, more recent and Canada has been a bit more mature in that aspect, right? So, I think banking traditionally was with a couple of banks which… which were very large banks in India and to a certain part… and I think until just a few years back, you know, they were just doing things manually. So, there was no concept of even a computer, forget mobile banking. I think in the last three to four years or five years maybe things have dramatically changed, right? So, everything has gone mobile. Everything really, you know, you can solve… literally transfer funds. You can look at your balance. You can look at a different type of products. Everything mobile and on the go, right? I think what’s really interesting is the fact that, in spite of the fact that, you know, there has been a significant penetration of technology and mobile phones. Somehow or the other, I think the tendency of human beings to go to a bank and get certain services done manually hasn’t really changed. And I think that really comes from the fact that has an internal satisfaction of going in, meeting a banker or an adviser, and getting some of your things done, right? So, the things differ when you are an individual. Things differ when you in a business. I may not be well-placed to talk about business as such, but I can tell you from an individual perspective, you know, I understanding the importance of mobile for technology. I would never really go to a bank, right? I mean, I would do things really on the mobile, right? Firstly, if I have to take cash the nearest ATM, right? I’ll go and pick up stuff there. However, traditionally India, if you actually take a look at, I mean, while mobile penetration has gone deeper there are people who really doesn’t know how to use that good, right? I mean, you know, let’s say about a good 30-40 percent of India is still sitting in villages or are slightly, kind of, you know, down urban market for a number of places and environment, right? So, when they go and open an account, right? Typically, I’m assuming a bank wouldn’t tell them to go to their mobile, launch an app and do that, right? So, a lot of the urban cities people would, you know, a lot of the office goers or people who are in service of business, they would use a lot of banking to transfer stuff. But, yeah. I mean, it’s been fairly good. Is it well covered? Kind of, yes. But… but, yet there is there’s a lot of coverage to be done, right? Because Internet as such is not really well penetrated overall in the country. Canada, I think, you know, I mean, again, as I said, I mean, I’ve been to the U.S., right? So, it wasn’t surprising and I’ve dealt with several people, you know? And when I spoke to my clients, my partners, things were just sort of our business. They were about weather. They were about banking. They were about, you know, what are we doing in Halloween? So on and so forth. So, you know, I knew that, you know, it will be far more advanced. You know, the nature of conversation. It’s going to be very professional to the point. You know, somebody isn’t going to direct me. It’s a self-serving country where you know you have to kind of download the app. You have to figure out what things are. So, yeah. I mean, that’s the difference and I think there’s a difference in mentality in terms of what you have and what you’re supposed to do yourself versus the convenience. You know, India plays on where, you know, there is someone of the other always. I mean, you go to a branch here, right? There would be a countable number of executives you see there. I mean, you will probably see about, probably 8,10,15, depending on the size of the branch. I mean, if you go to a brunch any size in India you won’t get anything less than 20-25. So, that’s the difference because there is always someone to kind of really help you there.
Sumantra: I think you know, the shift in mind from the convenience of someone always helping you and giving you right next door to a place where I think that’s the technology. That’s the difference technology has brought.
Are you using a banking app here in Canada?
Bernice: So, did you already download an app for the RBC to use RBC banking?
Sumantra: Oh yes, 4:30 I went to the bank 630pm and downloaded it. Sorry I can be very fast.
Bernice: You work very fast.
Sumantra: I mean, I knew what I’m going to do. It may sound really funny, but I had a real list. A checklist of day 1, day 2 and day 3. I knew what I’m supposed to do. So, yeah. I mean, and …and you know, what happens is, you feel nice when you go and meet someone, right? So say, for example, I’m speaking to you. If you give me the comfort, Bernice, I mean, I’d love to speak to you, right? So similarly, when I’m going to speak to an adviser and the comfort that she gave me was really unparalleled. And I think, you know, I could share it in terms of what I had. I even shared with her the kind of liabilities that I had. What plans you can give me. What can I do later on? I think that was great, that was very interesting.
Bernice: So you already talked about some financial planning strategies?
Sumantra: Absolutely I did.
Bernice: Oh ok.
Sumantra: I did. Again, I mean, yeah. I mean, this is what happens when you get old and you’ve become inflexible. But yes, I did.
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