Workshop 3: What impact for the sharing economy?

The final workshop on the season’s theme of the sharing economy was held on May 26th.

FSI was first provided with an excellent exposé of the sharing economy landscape by Laurence Audette-Lagueux, Community Connector at OuiShare Quebec. The exposé (available for download in French) gave us examples of the sharing economy in action in service areas, products redistribution and task assignment, with an emphasis on local exchange. Laurence also spoke of open creativity platforms and shared governance tools for collaborative decision-making. She then invited the audience to think about new approaches in finance. Is banking ripe for disruption? Possible signs that this may be the case are: complex user experience, broken trust, redundant intermediaries and limited access. With the emergence of fintech and a new generation wanting their money invested in accordance with their values, the finance industry may be in for a bumpy ride. Crowd-funding is just one example, as Laurence explained. She put it into context with a whole host of other approaches and finished up with some salient concrete examples.

We then heard from Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, General Manager at UBER Quebec, who presented the arrival of Uber as a way to combat waste: personally-owned cars sit idle 95% of the time and reinforce single-driver habits. Uber’s service provides a reasonably cost service to downtown areas not served by public transport and where traditional taxis don’t chose to go. While the young company admits to mistakes in its rapid expansion, Jean-Nicolas confirmed that it was working on issues of job security for its driver-partners. Questioned on the future of Uber, Jean-Nicholas talked of Uber Freight and preparing for driverless cars. What car ownership models would support a fleet of autonomous vehicles at the service of Uber customers?

Our third speaker was Christopher Kulendran Thomas, Artist and Founder of New Eelam. Christopher explained New Eelam as a thought experiment to address an increasing desire for distributed power of ownership. In more practical terms, it is a network of sharable homes, where international travellers (in this case, artists) can have a foothold in major cities on a time-shared basis (your personal items are kept in storage until your announced arrival) in housing built according to best green practice. From a finance perspective, the new form of housing allows a pool of real estate to be optimally managed (bought and sold to extract the gain in capital resulting in a reduction of costs for the collective owners. We were reminded that artists are not the group most likely to be approved for traditional property mortgages.

After the presentations, the panel was asked about how key stakeholders of the financial community were reacting to the disruption discussed and how Montreal would fare in this bold new world. Laurence highlighted that many of the change-makers in France, who are now reaping the benefits of the paradigm shift, are not enchanted by the idea of coming to Quebec to start back at square one. Regulators at all levels of government will have to react to this new reality and must be proactive in order to attract business suited for the new economy and to reap the benefits for Quebec and Canada. According to the panel, the Quebec government’s investments and support for advances in fintech and artificial intelligence (AI) in the province so far are considered modest in comparison to the private investment needed to come out as a leader.

Many thanks to the panel experts and to our event sponsor: Deloitte

The workshop was moderated by François Boutin-Dufresne, Strategist and Economist, and member of the FSI’s Board of Directors.