Looking back on one year with BC Unclaimed
July 17, 2023
It’s been a year of change, and it seems appropriate to both look back —and forward —to mark my one-year anniversary as Executive Director of the BC Unclaimed Property Society. Assuming the helm here coincided with BC Unclaimed’s 20th anniversary —a significant milestone. Over the past two decades, we have reunited $21.6 million in unclaimed funds with the rightful owners and donated over $58 million to charity. The province recognized the importance of our role with a Royal Proclamation this year.
The unclaimed property sector delivers real value to individuals and communities. Only a few provinces have programs to return forgotten funds to their owners, and we can be proud of our BC model which supports the charitable and the not-for-profit sector at the same time. We do this by putting unclaimed monies to work through our partnership with the Vancouver Foundation. I’m happy to share information about our model and do work with provinces interested in exploring a similar approach. A challenge we face, common to the sector, as I have learned from colleagues across the US and in Canada, is a low public profile, despite regular marketing efforts. A related challenge, in an era where online fraud is a real risk, is that services are viewed as suspect. “Scam” is not an uncommon reaction on social media. To increase perceptions of legitimacy, we replaced an awkward acronym by rebranding as BC Unclaimed and launched a new website. We focused on a redesign to convey professionalism, trustworthiness and helpfulness —values embraced by our board and staff. We also streamlined the inquiry and claiming process, and now offer organizations wishing to submit unclaimed funds (‘holders’) the option to upload documentation to our website as opposed to the traditional, print, copy and mail processes. This means cost and time savings for everyone. And we are now able to collect feedback through the website directly, giving us insight into what users find helpful and where we need to improve, through real-time dashboards.
Another change is a deliberate application of a justice, equity, diversity and inclusionary (“JEDI”) lens to our work and an analysis of how the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission apply to us. Staff are developing cultural competencies through self-directed learning and sharing, and a book club. To better assist claimants who may not be confident in English on the telephone, we now have translation services available on demand and staff who can help in several languages. In terms of reconciliation, we responded to the call for education by taking the University of Alberta’s online course, Indigenous Canada, to develop a shared understanding of the history of Indigenous peoples.
Looking forward, we plan to continue to be guided by JEDI values. This will be reflected in more innovative awareness campaigns, with a view to reaching out to the many communities that make up this province. A particular focus will be on vulnerable communities so that those who may benefit the most from unclaimed funds can. Part of this will be providing extra guidance to those who need court orders to claim funds which were transferred to us by courts, as I’ve learned this is a pain point for many claimants. Finally, we’re planning new outreach strategies to holders who may not be aware of our services or who have lost touch since the pandemic, and to express our appreciation for those whose commitment to the goals of the Unclaimed Property Act make our program a success. Holder support is the base from which we build our success in reuniting monies to their rightful owners and serve BC charities and not-for-profits.
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