Heather Soares remembers teaching her daughters to be independent in their new Canadian surroundings. “When we realized the supermarket didn’t offer bags or home delivery, the girls ran home for the luggage trolley,” laughs Heather, who moved her two teenagers to Mississauga, Ontario from Pune, India.
Determined to build a future for her girls, Heather was hesitant to accept the guest room of a friend, or a credit card from her bank, since she wanted to avoid dependence. “I soon learned to accept help from good people, and that credit is part of life here,” recalls Heather, who worked at a major bank in India where credit cards were not viewed favourably.
“I was ready to do anything, and soon realized that there were options available,” adds Heather. She juggled a temporary job at a big box store alongside her eldest daughter, upgraded her skills at the Peel Mentoring Partnership for internationally trained professionals, and studied during her bus commute. Through ACCES, a program sponsored in-part by Scotiabank, which assists job seekers new to Canada, Heather was able to write her Canadian Securities exam at no cost, and find a job at Scotiabank a year after arriving in Canada.
“It was wonderful for a bank to offer a credit card when no one would even rent you an apartment,” notes Heather. She had herself benefited from the Scotiabank StartRight® Program1 for Newcomers, which includes a bank account, credit card2 options and other customized services and benefits – when she moved to Canada.
“Now I know that it’s important to obtain credit within three years of coming to Canada. First, because life is expensive, and because you must build a credit history to show you are responsible,” remarks the Personal Banking Officer, who explains wise credit use to customers. For example, she advises them to be mindful of interest rates, avoid carrying a balance and to make the minimum monthly payment on time, to preserve their credit scores. She also helps them choose the right credit card features for their needs.
Heather also counsels immigrants about saving for their goals, like a new car or home ownership, by starting to save with higher-interest savings accounts and accessing government programs. “I try to go the extra mile to help customers understand the services available to them,” concludes Heather. “I’ve been in their shoes and I know one can achieve independence by talking to trusted advisers, doing research and helping yourself.”