ATB Financial: Opportunities for Building a New Flourishing Economy of Well-being for Alberta

Today (October 27, 2016) Robert McGarvey and I were the guests of Ted Ritzer of the Government of Alberta on a province-wide Greening Government Speakers Series. We explored the potential for building a sustainable economy of well-being for Alberta by leveraging the hidden assets yet to be fully leveraged by ATB Financial, the most important public bank in North America.

ATB Financial: Opportunities for Building a New Flourishing Economy of Well-being for Alberta

Mark Anielski

November 15, 2016

ATB Financial is Alberta’s most important financial asset. Founded in 1938 under a Social Credit government during the Great Economic Depression ATB is North America’s most important public bank with over $47.673 billion in assets, 6 times larger than then the only other public bank in North America, the Bank of North Dakota and 3.6 times larger than Servus Credit Union in Alberta (with $14.2 billion in assets). What does it mean to have our own public bank?

ATB Financial’s Natural Advantage

Why is ATB Financial so different than other financial institutions? Why does it have what outside experts say is a natural advantage? First, ATB Financial is not a private bank but is a bank with full financial services that is literally owned by Albertans backed 100% of the assets of the province. In other words ATB Financial is a Public Bank.

Second, ATB Financial is governed by a special Act of legislature called the Alberta Treasury Branch Act (2000) that sets out the terms of financial services ATB Financial can provide on behalf of the needs of Albertans.

Third, ATB Financial has the legal powers to operate just like any other bank but has significant number of Albertans as its members in fact all operations are shareholders in ATB Financial should all be members. In some ways ATB Financial is like a credit union such as Servus or Vancity, with members. Yet ATB Financial effectively already has every Albertan as a member by virtue of being a resident citizen of the province. ATB Financial is so safe that the only way he can fail is that if the entire province of Alberta fails which is highly unlikely.

Fourth, ATB Financial can never go bankrupt so long as the province is solvent and remains asset rich. ATB is 100% backed by the assets of the province which likely total in the multiple $ trillions but ironically have never been measured nor placed on a proper balance sheet for the province.

Fifth, ATB Financial does not pay any federal or provincial income tax. This is because ATB Financial is an asset of the Government of Alberta and is exempt from paying income taxes. No other bank in Canada such benefits. ATB Financial is required to pay a levy in lieu of not paying taxes. For the three months ended June 30, 2016 ATB Financial paid the Government of Alberta (Minister of Finance) a mere $7,466 for payment in lieu of taxes.

Sixth, ATB Financial has one of the healthiest balance sheet of any bank in the world. Healthy bank balance sheets have strong equity to asset ratios. The assets of ATB Financial include loans to Albertans which totalled more than $40 billion in 2016. Liabilities include the deposit accounts of Albertans which totalled $30.8 billion as well as $12.4 billion in other liabilities (wholesale borrowing, collateralized borrowings and some derivatives, a mere 1.2% of ATB Financial’s assets which is very small for a bank). The difference the assets and liabilities constitutes net equity which in 2016 amounted to $3.0 billion or a equity to asset ratio of 6.4% in 2016 (7.2% in 2015). These are signs of a very healthy and vibrant bank.

Seventh ATB Financial could effectively serve as Alberta’s public financial utility creating money and credit for Alberta households, business and even governments at competitive rates.

These are natural advantages Premier Aberhart probably never imagined when his government created ATB Financial in 1938. Perhaps after more than 78 years of operations its time to come to leverage ATB Financial’s true potential.

ATB Financial is Like Having our Own Free ATM Machine

Having ATB Financial is akin to all Albertans having their own ATM or the Government of Alberta having its own central bank like the Bank of Canada. Remarkably, ATB Financial has a natural advantage over any other bank since it exists for the sole purpose of providing Albertan’s with financial services. ATB Financial does not have to generate a profit since is is owned by us, Albertans. ATB Financial pays no income taxes. Moreover, in principle it could actually issue interest-free loans to all Albertans and even governments recovering only it’s operating costs and loan risk resulting in the cost of credit that would be well below Canada’s prime lending rate.

ATB Financial has the same special power of fractional reserve banking as any other private bank. ATB Financial is governed by the Alberta Treasury Branch Act (2000) that empowers it to provide a full range of financial services to Albertans. ATB Financial is literally owned by all 4.2 million Albertans and can therefore serve to finance what I envision as a new economy of well-being by leveraging the full potential and comparative advantage of Alberta’s human, social, natural and built assets.

ATB Financial has the potential of acting like a public utility for providing the necessary credit and financing to power our economy, finance the development of Alberta’s vast suite of assets and to help achieve our individual and collective dreams for a life of happiness and well-being. In theory, ATB could operate as a non-profit bank for Albertans provide credit and loans at no cost to Albertans (that is, without charging no interest on loans) since it is an arm of the Government of Alberta and accountable to the Minister of Finance, under the Alberta Treasury Branch Act. ATB Financial, as a business entity, would only need to recover it’s annual operating costs ($1.0 billion in 2015-16 in ‘non-interest expenses, of which 51% is salaries) through possible loan fees to its members; these operating costs translate into a mere 2.5% of $40 billion in outstanding loans. In addition, a provision of $473 million was allocated in 2015-16 for loan losses which amounts to 1.2% of total loans.

In other words, ATB Financial could in principle charge an annual bank operating levy of only 2.5% on each dollar loaned to Albertans (mortgages, student loans, car loans, lines of credit, etc.), simply because it does not have to earn a profit if it recovers 100% of it’s operating costs through such a fee. This cost of ATB loans is lower than today’s Canadian average prime lending rate as of today is 2.7%. Moreover, ATB does not pay federal or provincial income taxes as a public bank; it does pay a small .

The 2.5% cost of loan operating cost is nearly the same as the world’s only interest-free cooperative bank, the JAK Members Bank in Sweden. This bank operates as a cooperative member bank which does not charge interest on any of its loans but does recover its operating costs through a business levy on each loan. (I’ll tell you more about this bank later and how it operates or see my study of JAK compared to Vancity credit union on my website).

If we considered ATB Financial as another line-item in the Government of Alberta’s annual operating budget, $1 billion in operating costs amounts to $240 per Albertan or $1,380 per ATB Member (730,000 Albertans are members). This would expenditure would compare, for example, with the $1.3 billion the Alberta Government spent on Transportation ministry operations in 2015-16 or $310 per Albertan.

Of course, the benefits of providing loans to Albertans without charging interest would be significant lowering the cost of doing business, housing costs, going to college or university, farming, and any other number of credit financing needs. At present, the average Canadian is spending about $0.35 on ever dollar of household expenditure on hidden interest charges that come from private bank-created debt money.

ATB Financial’s comparative advantage of conventional commercial banks is that it does not have to maximize profits or be concerned about shareholder value as much as it should be concerned about providing sufficient credit to finance a resilient and flourishing economy, that is diversified across a wide range of sectors and supporting small to medium sized businesses that makes up 95% or more of Alberta’s economy. Indeed, there is an incentive for ATB Financial to improve the cost efficiencies of its operations by lowering the average cost of its operations to below 2.5% of the value of its loans.

Very few Albertans appreciate the history and importance of ATB Financial. Some might want to forget that it was established by Premier Bill Aberhart in 1938 when Alberta’s was effectively bankrupt. Aberhart invited the British parliamentarian C.H. Douglas to Alberta to explore options for Alberta to issues our own credit or money. The legacy of those years is the Alberta Treasury Branches or ATB Financial. We were told we could never call ATB a ‘bank’ yet ATB Financial is by definition a public bank that is owned and accountable to all Albertans.

Leveraging Alberta’s Assets

Alberta is fabulously rich in natural capital assets. My estimates of the value of the economic reserves of oil sands alone is over $8.2 trillion even at oil prices less than $50/bbl oil prices. We also also rich in agricultural and and forests which contributed unaccounted $billions in ecosystem services and natural resources.

Unfortunately, there are also carbon and environmental liabilities associated with the extraction of our natural resources. Alberta currently contributes over 27% of Canada’s Greenhouse Gas emissions imposing an unfunded carbon liability on the planet. This liability does not appear on Alberta’s books or on the books of petroleum companies. The reason it goes unaccounted on the public accounts of Alberta is because governments operate without a balance sheet of the total wealth or assets of a province, municipality or nation. This is a bizarre blind spot in public accounting.

Erasing Alberta’s Deficit

What if these unvalued natural assets along with the incredible potential of Alberta’s human capital (education, skills, health) and strength of social capital (relationships, trust, goodwill, reputation) were fully valued and the basis of our banking and investment decisions? How could ATB Financial and its sister investment company, AIMCo (Alberta Investment Management Inc.) leverage the potential value of these intangible assets to create a flourishing and resilient Alberta economy? And why not now in the midst of a recession with oil have led to a significant $10+billion deficit on Alberta’s income statement. Could ATB Financial provide the Alberta Government with an interim interest-free loan to cover the current fiscal deficit instead of going to the bond markets of Wall Street for debt-financing? The answer is unequivocally yes!

When I asked some of my investment and merchant banking friends from London, Washington and Los Angeles this question their answer was clear:

“Because ATB Financial is  a public bank owned by the province of Alberta, instead of going to the bond markets to cover its deficit, it could buy the deficit from the Provincial Government and sell the debt off to Albertans at virtually no cost to Alberta taxpayers other than recovering the related operating costs of managing the loan.”

Imagine if ATB Financial was directed by Alberta Treasury Board on behalf of all Albertans o provide near-zero interest loans and credit to help fuel investment in the undervalued assets of Alberta? What if these loans were tied specifically to a well-being bottom line for Alberta using full cost-benefit accounting protocols to evaluate the potential and risk of all businesses and households? What if the provincial Treasury Board was guided by a well-being economic impact model that required all decisions be analyzed through a well-being impact lens to empower our capacity to demonstrate true value for our investment and tax dollars?

Banking is about leveraging the underlying value of assets. ATB Financial could play a key role in unleashing the full potential of billions of dollars in undervalued human, social and natural capital assets acting as a public utility. This would include financing a green energy future for Alberta through energy efficiency investments in our homes and businesses, building renewable energy capacity and reducing Alberta’s carbon liability to the world. The benefits from the costs savings from energy use savings and reduced carbon liabilities alone would offset the costs of administering these programs.

Why ATB Financial could create our money at virtually no cost

What many people don’t realize is how banks actually 98% of her money is created when banks issue loans which are simply bookkeeping entries on their letters grading brand-new money out of thin air to help finance or mortgages are student loans, car loans, and lines of credit. this admission of the private banks in our society great majority of the money supply not the central bank such as the Bank of Canada was revealed last year by the Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney originates from.

The Bank of England has now publicly confirmed that private banking institutions create more than 97% of all modern money in our economy though the practice of issuing loans. In fact only a small fraction of what we call money is the form of government-created currency or notes. As the Bank of England confirms “97% of the money held by the public is in the form of deposits with banks, rather than currency.”

Unfortunately those loans come with the added burden of interest. It is the source of funds necessary to pay for the interest on each loan that is a great mystery; logically since banks create all of our modern money the money that we need to pay the interest costs on loans must ultimately come from new loans which creates new liquidity.

The Bank of England states clearly how money is created in one of their new publications titled Money Creation in the Modern Economy:

“In the modern economy, most money takes the form of bank deposits. But how those bank deposits are created is often misunderstood: the principal way is through commercial banks making loans. Whenever a bank makes a loan, it simultaneously creates a matching deposit in the borrower’s bank account, thereby creating new money. Commercial [i.e. high-street] banks create money, in the form of bank deposits, by making new loans. When a bank makes a loan, for example to someone taking out a mortgage to buy a house, it does not typically do so by giving them thousands of pounds worth of banknotes. Instead, it credits their bank account with a bank deposit of the size of the mortgage. At that moment, new money is created. For this reason, some economists have referred to bank deposits as ‘fountain pen money’, created at the stroke of bankers’ pens when they approve loans.”

However, in principle governments could create the money needed in an economy without the cost of interest if it would to treat money as public utility. ATB Financial is Canada’s largest and most important public bank that has this capability, though they behave no differently in their lending practices as other private commercial banks.

Banks justify charging interest to cover their risk with borrowers and to cover operating costs . However, if you think about the fact that a bank creates new money out of thin air each time they issue a loan, then what is the risk to them if the credit they created for my mortgage defaults? Other than having to cease and then sell my asset (the house) at reduced value, there is no other costs to the bank. Therefore, a bank is akin to a counterfeiter who creates money with a stroke of a pen.

The beauty of ATB Financial is that can create money by issuing loans to households, farmers, business and even to other governments (municipal) and the Government of Alberta itself (in principle) without any interest or debt charges! Remember according to ATB’s 2015-16 financials the operating costs were $1 billion or a mere $2.50 for each dollar of loans. Total loans in 2016 were $40.3 billion of which 47.6% were business loans, 35.5% were mortgage loans, 16.4% were personal loans (car loans, lines of credit, student loans), and the rest was credit card loans.

The truth about interest charges is that justification of charging interest becomes mute since all costs of operating a bank could be recovered to an annual operating fee charged to all depositors of ATB or a bank. The bank like any business incurs costs for operations which need to be recovered through fees. But the net saving to the customers or in the case of ATB, citizens of the Treasury Branch, would be significant saving hours of labour required to pay for the interest on mortgages and other loans. Without the burden of interest cost, more free time is the ultimate benefit to households.

But is there an example of such a utopian bank in the world? There is a unique bank in Sweden, JAK back which operates without charge interest on loans nor does it pay interest on deposits. in this unique back is a cooperative bank comprised of members who share their assets providing each other with interest-free financing which has enormous benefit to every member. consider that the cost of interest embedded in all of her economic output and the cost of living represents roughly $.36 on every dollar of expenditure; these are numbers I’ve estimated for the US alone I suspect are similar for Canada. the cost of interest is hidden in the prices of all goods and services but if we understood that these costs are an unnecessary burden on her life energy and causes to work excessive hours than we might think differently about whether private banks should be the ones creating the money in our system when in fact public banks and the central bank could create the money for citizens without any cost that is without the burden of interest costs. you see money ultimately could be a public utility were cost to create it or simply recovered through taxes or other operating fees. this is precisely how the JAK Members Bank in Sweden operates recovering its operating costs through membership fee like MEC it is most successful cooperative enterprise with one in 10 Canadians holding a five dollar membership. A cooperative business structure is the ideal form of business ownership since each member can hold only one share and exercise only one vote in a model of shared ownership, risk and benefits.

In principle ATB Financial is a cooperative financial institution to the extent that every Albertan is entitled to an account since ATB Financial is our collective financial asset and has the power to create loans and credit on her behalf to finance the well-being aspirations of our economy.

Why run a deficit when we have the power of ATB Financial?

Today Alberta is running an enormous financial deficit in excess of $10 billion. From what you’ve learned about ATB Financial now you can see that running a deficit by government is completely unnecessary given that it actually has the power to create its own credit through the same powers of fractional reserve lending as other banks. Alberta also has another crown jewel called AIMCo for Alberta investment management Corporation. this financial institution has over $90 billion under management the legacy of the Alberta heritage fund was which was established with oil and gas royalties beginning in the 1970s under Peter Lougheed. The potential capacity of this incredible financial institution combined with AIMCo means of Alberta has well over $133 billion in financial assets and investment equity that is the envy of all of Canada. In fact the combined assets of these two Alberta financial institutions is almost half the size of the entire Canadian pension plan which is estimated at roughly $278 billion.

You can see the potential of ATB Financial and AIMCo’s financial capacity combined to finance the new economy for Alberta is tremendous.

Using ATB Financial to eliminate Albertan’s carbon liability

Alberta’s commitment to balancing its carbon deficit is one example of what may be possible if ATB Financial were used wisely.

If Alberta had a proper balance sheet it would show an unfunded liability associated with Alberta’s carbon emissions of 274 megatonnes of CO2 emissions (2014) at value of at least $13.7 billion. That is based on pricing carbon at $50/tCO2, which is a conservative figure compared to what countries like Sweden and Norway are currently pricing carbon, where carbon pricing ranges from $93/tCO2 to $220/tCO2, respectively. Alberta’s emissions represented 37.4% of Canada’s total emissions of 733 megatonnes in 2014.

The vast  majority of Alberta’s emissions (over 80%) come from industrial emissions. Of Canada’s overall GHG emissions in 2014 an estimated 46% emissions came from Canadian households, meaning the remaining 54% came from industry, businesses and governments. Canadian residential energy use contributed 6% (46 megatonnes) to Canada’s total emissions in 2014 while ground transportation (including private vehicles, buses and transport trucks) contributed 19.1% or 140 megatonnes to Canada’s total emissions.

Alberta’s GHG emissions have grown by 17% since 2005 due to the expansion of the oilsands. The $13.7 billion carbon liability represents an unfunded liability imposed on the world’s economy which does not reside on the balance sheet of Alberta or Alberta’s businesses and households. $13.7 billion is considerably more than the $2.47 billion in oil and gas royalties that are expected to be paid by Alberta’s oil and gas industry in 2016; royalties have collapsed from the glory days of 2008 when a total of $11.9 billion was collected.

It is estimated that the cost of closing Alberta’s coal-fired electricity capacity could range from $4-5 billion over the next 10 to 20 years. Those investment dollars could from ATB Financial or AIMCo if properly structured and instructed by Alberta Treasury Board. The rational for these investments would be supported by estimates of the $300 million per annum in health costs savings related to respiratory ailments due to coal fired emissions as well as reductions in Alberta’s carbon liabilities. ATB Financial could provide interest-free loans to the power producers to make a transition from coal supplied electricity to natural gas as well as investing in renewable energy capacity development combined with energy efficiency investments.

ATB Financial could provide interest-free loans to households to make the energy efficiency retrofits that could undoubtedly reduce Alberta’s energy demands by at least 20 to 30% simply through home energy efficiency retrofits of fridges furnaces and insulation in our walls. These funds should be available at no cost at least in terms of interest cost to our burdens and would fuel a new economic upswing in activity even as oil continues to languish. This would accelerate renewable energy capacity of Alberta and begin to match perhaps Denmark’s and Germany’s renewable energy capacity which is closing in or exceeds 50% of electricity demand. the cost savings alone on eliminating the burden of interest on this financing would be tremendous and provide additional liquidity available to pay living wages to all Albertans who would be employed in this energy efficiency retrofit. Alberta’s solar energy capacity remains at an anemic 0.05% of total electricity capacity even though the net societal benefits of converting to solar are justified through a proper cost-benefit analysis lens.

We may not even need to levy a carbon tax if we explored real opportunities to provide the necessary investment liquidity through ATB Financial and AIMCo. We could finance all of the carbon reduction goals simply by putting the power of ATB’s credit capacity to work. It remains to be seen whether the carbon tax Albertans will pay ($20-per-tonne carbon tax on emissions beginning in 2017, rising to $30 in 2018) will have any net positive impact on reducing absolute GHG emissions and Alberta’s carbon liability

The government’s climate change policy also requires all coal-fired power plants to be emissions-free by 2030 or shut down. Some estimate the cost of retrofitting will amount to $12 billion in lost revenues to coal-fired plant operators and retrofit costs as high as $5 billion, according to a report by Jeremy Rosenfield. His cost estimates include net costs to producers after subtracting power plant expenses, maintenance costs and economic discounts.

I’m not proposing throwing good money at bad projects or businesses. Quite the contrary. I would have Treasury Board dedicate strict terms on ATB’s lending policies that all loans be tied to measurable and accountable impacts that result in real energy efficiencies, real and verifiable reductions in GHG emissions and a full cost accounting of the net benefits to Alberta’s economy that would result. I would introduce a set of cost-benefit and financial efficiency metrics and protocols to be able to measure what I call a Well-being Return on Investment analysis system whereby the impacts on human well-being, economic well-being and environmental well-being will be measured. The Government would then be able to demonstrate to Albertans real value from investing in this new green energy future and sustainable economy.

A Well-being Economic Secretariat and Asset Audits

If I was Premier and Finance Minister I would create a new Wellbeing Economy Secretariat or Council to oversee the actions of ATB Financial and AIMCo in terms of investing in the new economy of well-being. I would require a comprehensive total asset audit or assessment of Alberta’s natural capital, human and social capital as well as built capital to determine the potential for investment in both undervalued and under-leveraged assets, many which remain hidden or intangible. In fact, there is no proper balance sheet for the Province of Alberta. So Alberta would be pioneering as a government in operating from a complete balance sheet just as large corporations do today.

Alberta would be wise to take a total asset based approach to building the new economy of well-being. First, by identifying and inventorying the total wealth and assets of the province from human, social and natural capital to built or infrastructure assets. The rules of ‘highest and best’ use analytics would be applied to each asset to assess the potential of each asset through the lens of contributing to the net positive well-being of the province.

Assessing the real asset potential of Alberta’s businesses

ATB could develop requirements of businesses and households seeking loans to prepare a new generation of business plans and pro-forma statements with new valuations of some of the intangible assets including natural capital, human and social capital (in the form of not only goodwill but also relational assets and trust) and natural capital assets (such as ecosystem service credits, carbon credits and carbon liabilities).

Once a proper balance sheet is prepared for Alberta ‘Inc.’ as a province for all assets this can then be used to help guide ATB and AIMCo on how it would support the leveraging of these assets through credit or direct equity investment, as in the case of AIMCo. With $133 billion in financial capacity, this credit and equity investment power is unparalleled in Canada and would unleash untold economic development.

Take for example investing in Alberta’s renewable energy capacity. The Alberta Government would identify the potential renewable energy capacity across Alberta for wind, solar, geothermal, biofuel, and micro-hydro. At present Alberta’s total energy capacity totalled 16,242 MW of which 43.6% was from natural gas, 38.5% (6,253 MW) from coal, 9.0% (1,462 MW) wind and 5.5% hydro and 2.8% biomass. Solar capacity didn’t even register in these stats as it was less than 0.05%.

A full cost-benefit accounting of each option would be examined in comparison with conventional energy sources (oil, natural gas, other fuels, coal, nuclear) and assess each options through a well-being impact investment lens. Those options which deliver a healthy financial return in harmony with a net positive impact on the environment (measured in terms of reduced carbon liability) and human well-being (improved health, reduced health-related costs) would establish the priority for investment choices. Energy efficiency investments could also be the priority of both ATB and AIMCo banking and investment decisions. In fact, the low hanging fruit for reducing Alberta’s $13 billion carbon liability will certainly come through energy efficiencies of households, businesses and governments.

Alberta’s Efficiency Opportunities

Alberta is currently setting up its own Energy Efficiency Alberta agency to be funded by $542 million from carbon taxes. Early estimates of energy efficiency savings by the Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance have estimated a total of $510 million in annual energy savings, 3000 more jobs, $550 million in increased GDP, and the equivalent of taking 900,000 vehicles off the road. Estimates by Dunsky Energy Consulting for Alberta in 2015 estimated efficiency savings for Alberta could range from 6.35 to 14.45 megatonnes per year. Estimating the societal cost of carbon savings based on $50/tC02 then societal costs savings could amount to between $317 million and $722 million per year; that would mean as much as a 5% reduction in Alberta’s total current carbon liability.

In Nova Scotia, energy efficiency retrofits are expected to reduce provincial energy demand by 20-30% over the next few years. Over $110 million has already been saved in energy costs in 2016 by an estimated 225,000 Nova Scotians (or 28% of the adult population), both households and businesses, who have participated in Nova Scotia’s energy efficiency program (EfficiencyOne). The result has been an 8 per cent reduction in total electricity load. The megatonnes in carbon emission reductions and the estimated reduction in the carbon liability of Nova Scotia has not yet been calculated. However, Stephen MacDonald who oversees the program says he expects greenhouse gas emissions to be “12 per cent lower than they otherwise would have been if not for energy efficiency.” Nova Scotia emitted an estimated 16.6 megatons of CO2 equivalent in 2014 so we could say that Nova Scotia will realize a net reduction of almost 2 megatonnes of CO2 emissions valued at $50/t C02 would mean that annual societal savings of almost $100 million per year. If you add these societal costs savings to the estimated energy costs savings Nova Scotia has seen a $220 million per year economic benefit, not counting the value of lower health-care costs, from their energy efficiency program, to date.

What most of don’t appreciate is that the majority of these investments in energy efficiency and building renewable energy capacity could be financed by zero-interest loans by ATB and direct investments by AIMCo Alberta’s renewable energy infrastructure. The costs of managing such a program for both ATB and AIMco might come from the cost savings experienced by Alberta households and businesses. In addition, the reduction in carbon liabilities and reduced health-care related costs would be counted and properly used to rationalize the programs.

North America’s Best Kept Secret

ATB Financial is Alberta’s most treasured and undervalued financial asset. As North America’s largest public bank it is arguably North America’s best kept secret. Most of my American and British banking and finance colleagues are flabbergasted when I explain what we have in Alberta. It’s time to explore the real potential and natural advantages of ATB Financial to restore the provinces struggling economy, leverage the full potential of our abundant assets, and build a world-class example of a new flourishing economy of well-being.

About Mark Anielski

I am an economic strategist and the author of the Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth, a book that provides a roadmap to the new economy of well-being and a life of purpose and meaning.
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8 Responses to ATB Financial: Opportunities for Building a New Flourishing Economy of Well-being for Alberta

  1. Ed Service says:

    If you want to ask some questions of some economic professors around the world you can join “intro to modern money theory” facebook group. Hope to see you there!

  2. Guy Dauncey says:

    Great info! Does Ellen Brown, at the Public Banking Institute, know about ATB? I only knew about the Bank of North Dakota. I’ll circulate this on Facebook, too. Thanks!

    • Hi Guy, yes Ellen wrote about ATB and Bank of North Dakota in her most recent book. We are good friends. Ellen does not fully grasp the size and significance of ATB Financial as Alberta’s public bank with $47 billion in assets, much larger than BND.

      • Guy Dauncey says:

        Have you been on Ellen’s radio show? That would be a good way to get more exposure for this. Pity the name is so boring!

        And have you thought of linking up with people like Mike Hudema and Tzeporah Berman, who are working on Alberta climate action, so show them a new source of financing for the transition?

        • Hi Guy, not yet thought Ellen and Walt McRee and I spoke last week about the Oakland Public Bank initiative. We have some big plans. I know Mike though don’t work with him at this stage. I’m involved with the Energy Efficiency Corporation with my colleague David Dodge (he is the chair of the Alberta Energy Efficiency Corp) and I’m also involved with advancing a public green bank directly to the Premier (Rachel Notley) and Minister of Environment, Shannon Phillips. I believe ATB Financial already IS Alberta’s potential green public bank. My paper on ATB has gone to the Premier’s office for her attention. I’m also the newest member of the Alberta Public Audit Committee so can advise the Finance Minister and Treasury Board directly on the opportunities for ATB Financial ($47 billion) and AIMCo (Alberta Investment Management Co.; $94 billion under management). Both organizations have assets half the size of the Canadian Pension Fund. Both organizations are managed out of Edmonton where I live. So I know their potential as North America’s most valuable public financial asset/services. The Premier is also my neigbhour. So the opportunities are tremendous to advance a total wealth asset management system for Alberta with the financial services assets of ATB and AIMCo.

  3. Erin Elsner says:

    What is the difference between this and a credit union, other than that it is a public FI?

    • The main difference is that all Albertans are shareholders in ATB Financial. ATB is 100% backed by the assets of the province. ATB pays no taxes. Otherwise ATB is similar to Credit Unions like Servus.

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