< Corporate Social Responsibility

Building a foundation for economic health

This has been an incredibly difficult year for people around the world and certainly for Albertans. The combined impact of COVID-19 and other economic forces unique to our province has been profoundly challenging. Many Albertans found themselves experiencing changes in employment, with people being furloughed or laid off early in the pandemic, while others struggled to keep their businesses open or adapt to necessary public health measures and changing consumer behaviours.

From the very first days of the global health crisis, ATB has worked closely with our clients to help them access available supports, adapt their business models, and set the stage for post-pandemic recovery. As we look ahead, ATB will continue to find ways to stick by Albertans and offer solutions that address their most urgent economic needs while helping them look ahead to what’s possible. This includes investing in the economic health of our communities, ensuring Albertans have access to banking, helping our most vulnerable citizens, and contributing to social impact. We will also continue to help Albertans in developing the financial literacy skills they need to manage their money and achieve their goals.

Message from Todd Hirsch, our Chief Economist

Although the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the economy into a record-setting contraction in 2020, the province is on track to recover some of that lost ground, with growth of about 4.1% this year followed by 2.6% growth in 2022. At this rate, Alberta’s economy will surpass its pre-pandemic level by 2023.

We know there are still severe challenges ahead. The recovery will not look the same for everyone across different sectors and income groups. ATB is forecasting a K-shaped recovery. On the upper branch of the K, higher-income earners who didn’t lose their jobs will return to normal and drive consumer spending. At the same time, on the lower branch of the K, lower-income earners may face chronic unemployment because some service-sector businesses will fail to reopen, and emergency government relief programs will wind down. It will be a difficult recovery for too many Albertans.

Capital spending in the oil and gas sector will still be down compared to 2019—already a slow year; however, 2021 is looking better for Alberta’s oil patch. Production bounced back to pre-pandemic levels in November, and prices have also improved significantly, with ATB forecasting an average of US$51 a barrel for 2021. There are also a number of bright spots to watch, including growth in the tech sector, which has attracted investment from several large companies. Agriculture continues to expand, with the cattle industry rebounding quickly from pandemic-related challenges. Total farm cash receipts hit a record high in 2020. The agrifoods, renewable energy, and clean-energy technologies sectors are also expected to do well in 2021 and beyond.

Stepping up to help our clients

COVID-19 relief for our personal clients

In the earliest days of the pandemic, we quickly established a client relief program that provided temporary assistance to our clients to meet their most urgent needs. This included loan deferrals and Mastercard repayment and rate-reduction options. We recognized many situations required individualized solutions, so we worked closely with clients who needed those options.

As many Canadians began applying for the new federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Government of Canada encouraged the use of direct deposit to improve speed, security, and safety. To make this easier for our clients, ATB quickly incorporated a seamless Canada Revenue Agency registration process into its online banking and mobile-app platforms.

COVID-19 relief for our business clients

When the pandemic arrived, public health measures required many businesses to close or adapt their business models. To help meet the most critical needs of our business clients, ATB created relief programs that offered clients various options for temporary assistance. These options, designed to help them weather the short-term impacts, included principal and interest payment deferrals, working capital loans to sustain operations, and the waiving of merchant fees for clients who had to shut down due to COVID-19.

Supporting CEBA behind the scenes

Over 20,000 ATB clients received more than $1 billion in government-backed capital through CEBA using ATB’s custom process, which differed from our competitors in several ways: ours offered digital authentication and automated application-formatting validation, and we reached out to clients directly who were not approved to offer them alternative solutions. ATB team members worked around the clock to develop, test, and implement the new process to ensure our clients received the support they needed as quickly as possible.

The harmony of purpose and profit

ATB has long worked to ensure our business goals closely align with improving the lives of Albertans. We recognize that purpose and profit are interconnected, so we wove that focus—and our commitment to working for the greater good—throughout our Path to 2030 strategic plan, released just months before the global health emergency was declared. As the crisis evolved and it became clear it would continue for many more months, ATB looked beyond emergency relief programs and developed ways to help Alberta businesses adapt to the ongoing challenges. We adapted our existing programs and initiatives and created new ones.

ATB BoostR

ATB BoostR partnered with the McConnell Foundation to eliminate platform and processing fees for Alberta-based entrepreneurs, making it easier for businesses to switch to online selling during the early months of the pandemic. From May to August 2020, ATB BoostR helped Alberta-based businesses and non-profits raise over $125,000 for their bottom lines through crowdfunding.

image of Ade Adegbonmire at Adewunmi Skincare
Ade Adegbonmire of Adewunmi Skincare, one of the local shops involved in the #AdoptAShopYEG initiative, outside his shop.


It quickly became clear that local small businesses needed an additional boost from the community. In November, we partnered with Edmonton influencer, blogger, and entrepreneur Linda Hoang for the #AdoptAShopYEG: ATB Neighbourhood Hop in support of local Edmonton businesses. The initiative encouraged people to sign up to “adopt” neighbourhoods in the city and commit to spending at local shops, generating over $28,000 for these small businesses.

ATB X Accelerator

ATB X Accelerator is a customized, growth-focused experience delivered by businesses, for businesses—through experts, connections, and community. We adapted many of the ATB X Accelerator programs to meet the challenges of the health crisis and allow Albertans to safely continue participating. So far, 11 ATB X Growth cohorts have now graduated, encompassing more than 200 alumni who are now accelerating their business goals across Alberta. ATB X Level Up and User Testing have also been recently introduced, with many Alberta business owners taking advantage of increasing their entrepreneurial skill sets while receiving immediate feedback on new products or services.

ATB Entrepreneur Centres

Our commitment to helping Alberta businesses embrace possibilities is what led us to create ATB Entrepreneur Centres in Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, and Lethbridge. This past year, the Entrepreneur Centres went fully digital, hosting all of our 45 events online, which saw more than 1,000 Albertans participate. For new entrepreneurs starting up during the pandemic, we also offered free banking for the first year so their capital could be best used in getting off the ground during an exceptionally challenging time.

image a truck driver carrying a meal he had received.
One of the many truck drivers, continuing to support our economy during the pandemic, who stopped by to pick up a meal offered by ATB.

Helping Albertans weather the impacts of the pandemic

ATB Urgent Needs Committee

This committee was formed in the early days of the pandemic to address the most critical community needs. Our immediate response included a $250,000 donation to and $180,000 in fundraising for United Way to help get funds where they were needed most, and donation-matching through the ATB Cares program in April. Thanks to the tremendous generosity of ATB team members and fellow Albertans, we reached $100,000 in matched donations in only five days. Other support included organizing efforts to support health care workers, truck drivers, non-profit organizations, teachers, and vulnerable Albertans, including delivering free or subsidized meals and hand sanitizer.

Goodness Grows

#ATBGoodnessGrows was created to encourage Albertans to bring joyful moments to others at a time when so many Albertans are struggling to find happiness. Being disconnected from the places, people, and experiences we love has been hard on everyone, and ATB wanted to mobilize our team members to make acts of goodness a catalyst for happiness. Here are some of our favorite stories that came from this initiative.

Alberta food banks

As part of our commitment to Albertans, this past holiday season ATB donated over $143,000 to 83 food banks across the province. It’s one of the many ways we helped Alberta’s most vulnerable at a time when food security was increasingly urgent.

COVID-19 pilot project

A new partnership led by the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association will provide pulse oximetry monitors, which measure blood oxygen levels, to COVID-19 patients. Research shows that lower levels could be an early warning sign to let patients know when to seek help. In addition to financial support, ATB is also lending some procurement and project-coordination expertise. This pilot project will be implemented in early fiscal 2022, during the third wave of the pandemic.

Financial empowerment

Helping Albertans understand their finances so they can make their money work harder for them is an important contributor to well-being and a key focus for ATB. Many of our financial-empowerment programs adapted their strategies to serve clients safely while helping the many Albertans facing new or deepening financial challenges to address urgent needs and plan for better days ahead. In addition to our keystone programs, we:

  • Continued our partnership with Cashco Financial to reach Albertans who may have difficulty accessing the conventional financial services system;
  • Continued to take part in the Financial Pathways Collaborative in Edmonton to foster financial literacy in vulnerable populations;
  • Continued our support of the Junior Achievement Company Program to connect students with local leaders;
  • Again partnered with The Alex Centre to deliver its financial empowerment programming for Calgarians living on low incomes; and
  • Partnered with 4-H to deliver financial literacy courses on the basics of budgeting and credit to 4-H youth and their leaders.
image a client is holding a biometric device
A Four Directions Financial client uses biometric technology to access banking services. Photo taken in 2019, pre-pandemic.

Four Directions Financial

Four Directions Financial uses biometric technology to make banking more accessible to Albertans experiencing houselessness or living in poverty. Over the last four years, Four Directions has grown to approximately 1,500 clients, with over 70% set up to receive a direct deposit to their account, eliminating the need for cheque management. This year we partnered with the Government of Alberta to help open accounts for Alberta Works and Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) clients. Many of these clients have limited or no identification but are now able to access basic banking services throughout the entire province and are not limited to Four Directions Financial.

image a young student presenting to a video camera
Students like this Junior ATB CEO learn valuable financial literacy and leadership skills. Photo taken in 2017, pre-pandemic.

Junior ATB in action

Traditional Junior ATB delivers a hands-on, in-person mini-bank setup in an elementary school. With the restrictions in place through public health measures, we created an online financial literacy program to safely deliver an interactive experience to students in Grades 4 to 6. The new online experience offers activities and conversation designed specifically for virtual learning. More than 70% of the previous year’s schools participated, and we received many new requests from schools that wanted to try the virtual format. Some teachers said this was the only extracurricular activity that students could take part in and were thrilled that ATB could quickly design and deliver the new program.

Empower U

Empower U is a financial literacy and matched savings program whose participants are typically women from diverse backgrounds who are experiencing low income and poverty. As part of the partnership between ATB and United Way, ATB provides facilitators to run financial workshops and in-branch ambassadors to set up the accounts and personally welcome each new participant. As participants become more financially stable, they also take part in a one-to-one matched savings program, meaning that for every dollar they save, they generate $1 in matched contributions. Since Empower U began in 2012, more than 2,500 people have participated in the program, resulting in just over $324,000 saved. In addition, 90% of participants reported an increase in self-esteem and 93% reported an increase in financial self-confidence.

Bow Valley College

The ATB Centre for Financial Empowerment on campus gives students access to free financial literacy programming and services like management workshops and one-on-one coaching, which were all held online over the last year.

Growing innovation

Olds College

Our partnership with Olds College, one of the province’s innovation hubs, led to the development of its Smart Farm—a 2,000-plus-acre plot of farmland supported by advanced technologies in agriculture and the sophisticated assets of the smart farmhouse—and the Agsmart Expo, a showcase event for producers and businesses to see, test, and experience the latest innovations in agricultural technology.

AltaML Applied AI Lab

Artificial intelligence (AI) is integrated into almost every part of our daily lives. ATB hosted six interns last year through the AltaML Applied AI Lab’s internship program, which accelerates applied AI and machine-learning skill development. In addition to enhancing customer experience at ATB, interns gain hands-on experience and bolster Alberta’s innovation ecosystem—keys to success in a new data-driven economy.

Metric FY2020 FY2021 Action plan
Money spent on goods and services from suppliers $550 million $559 million Continue using a supply base that conforms to and reflects the standards we hold ourselves accountable to.
Direct economic value generated and distributed Economic value generated: $1.7 billion Economic value generated: $1.8 billion Grow our direct economic value generated and distributed to the Alberta economy through execution of our Path to 2030 strategic plan
Economic value distributed: $1.6 billion Economic value distributed: $1.6 billion
Economic value retained: $102 million Economic value retained: $211 million
Net income (1) $101.9 million $210.5 million Grow our net income  through execution of our Path to 2030 strategic plan.
Economic profit $81.6 million $107.1 million Grow our economic profit through execution of our Path to 2030 strategic plan.
Societal impact (2) $867 million $1.0 billion Grow our societal impact through execution of our Path to 2030 strategic plan.
Range of ratios of standard entry-level wages compared to local minimum wage at significant locations of operation 1.063:1 1.063:1 Continue to keep entry-level wages above minimum wage.
(1) Net income improved year over year, a result of ATB’s focus on revenue diversification and expense management.
(2) Includes net income, salaries and benefits, ATB agencies, deposit guarantee fee, payment in lieu of tax, sponsorships, and donations.