Message from the President and CEO
What a year it’s been. 2020-21 was unlike any other. I’ve heard the term “once in a century pandemic” and I think that’s a pretty accurate way of describing the way COVID-19 disrupted the world around us. In a year filled with so much uncertainty, I am honoured and proud to be part of an organization and serve an industry that stepped up to overcome many challenges. The Canadian agriculture and food industry demonstrated its bend-not-break mentality and FCC was a part of that. I want to thank our 2,000 employees from coast to coast for their resilience and hard work this past year.
In late March 2020, one week after we began working from home and the first round of lockdowns were announced across the country, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that FCC would receive a $500 million enhancement to our capital base, which allowed for an additional $5 billion in lending capacity to support the needs of our industry. In the weeks and months that followed, we offered loan payment deferrals and products to assist with our customers’ cash flow needs. From March 2020 to the end of this fiscal year, 4,919 customers utilized payment deferral options on loans totalling $5.6 billion. Over the same period, 1,879 customers were approved for COVID-19 FCC Credit Lines totalling approximately $400 million. Other products we introduced as part of our COVID-19 response included FCC Operating Credit Term Loans and loans to large customers disrupted by COVID-19, resulting in close to $485 million of additional financing support.
One thing COVID-19 forced everyone to do was adapt. Consider the food industry, which saw dramatic shifts in the market as restaurants and food services closed and consumers shifted to cooking at home, spiking demand at Canadian grocery stores. The rapid investment in new packaging lines and supply chain capacity quickly assured Canadians of the importance of the domestic agriculture and food industry to provide the safe and nutritious food they have come to expect.
Like many organizations, we also had to adapt our processes and practices in 2020-21 to enable more digital transactions and less face-to-face interaction. FCC had been ramping up our online services prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic certainly accelerated the rollout of a few offerings. We launched e-signatures for our customers, allowing them to approve official documents using an electronic signature, which is both convenient and eliminates physical contact when necessary, which resulted in more than 30,000 documents signed electronically. We also enhanced our online services to facilitate digital applications for new loans and loan administration requests. This allows customers to self-serve and also decreases the time it takes the FCC Customer Service Centre to approve these requests. We have also rolled out, in beta, our first auto adjudication model that approves qualifying loan applications delivered to us by our Alliance partners via a new digital application for crop input customers. This is FCC’s first end-to-end digital offering, from application to documentation, without human intervention. Virtual meetings such as our knowledge events, Annual Public Meeting and Canada’s Agriculture Day enabled us to expand our reach and connect with new audiences across the country, in place of in-person events. These changes have encouraged us to seek ways to maintain a best-of-both-worlds approach to events in the future.
COVID-19 prompted us to adopt a hybrid work environment for our employees as well. Provincial restrictions and guidelines required us to work primarily from home (interestingly, the number of online meetings went up tenfold in 2020-21; likewise, chat messages went up nearly 200%), and we demonstrated our agility as we followed these changing requirements throughout the year.
I am proud of how we navigated this crisis as an organization. On the whole, we adjusted to working from home favourably and senior FCC leaders worked as a team to deliver regular communications to keep our employees connected. As a result, employees felt supported and informed from week to week – as evidence, our annual Kincentric employee engagement score came in at 90% in 2020, which is truly remarkable.
In terms of FCC’s fiscal performance and in spite of a global pandemic, 2020-21 reflects the strength and resilience of the Canadian agriculture and food industry. Our total portfolio grew to $41.5 billion (an increase of 7.6% year-over-year), with disbursements totalling $13.2 billion in 2020-21. Net income amounted to $812.5 million.
To build a stronger FCC for the future, we took a closer look at diversity and inclusion in 2020-21, as we continued our work to ensure employees feel they belong and want to build their careers at FCC. Diversity of thought and of background are a competitive advantage for FCC and we want our workforce to understand that. It was also a year with great emphasis on mental wellness and we worked hard to ensure employees had the support they needed. We advanced our journey toward Truth and Reconciliation, with 99% of employees completing an intensive Indigenous Awareness learning program this year.
Truth and Reconciliation is a priority for us at FCC, and a key part of our mandate as a federal Crown corporation. Our Indigenous Relations team launched its Indigenous lending strategy in 2020-21, which we are excited to roll out nationwide in the coming year. Related to our mandate commitments, we established a greater focus on lending to food processing operations as part of our agribusiness and agri-food strategy, and further digitized the FCC Knowledge and Advisory Services offering. We connected with the next generation of farmers as well as women entrepreneurs and offered products to meet their needs. We also partnered to deliver increased venture capital to support agriculture and food innovation in Canada, and worked to champion environmentally sustainable practices at FCC, among our customers and throughout the greater industry. A year marked by COVID-19 highlighted the importance of something that is always important to us: we gave back to the communities where we live and work. Our annual FCC Drive Away Hunger food drive provided over 17 million meals for food banks and feeding programs nationwide, another record-breaking year despite disruptions caused by the global pandemic.
In terms of mental wellness support for our customers and the greater industry, FCC funded 31 mental first-aid training courses in partnership with Do More Ag. In 2020-21, FCC hosted 11 virtual events with 6,181 attendees where at least one speaker delivered messaging related to mental health. We also contributed $1.5 million to 92 rural community projects across Canada in 2020-21.
I believe 2020-21 showed the benefits of Crown corporations to all Canadians. In the early stage of the pandemic, the federal government, the FCC Board of Directors and FCC collaborated like never before to introduce emergency support programs for the industry and our customers. Looking ahead, we are working together closely to identify ways this great industry can contribute to Canada’s post- COVID economic recovery. There is much work to be done, but I’m excited for FCC and the broader agriculture and food industry to play a bigger game.
As I reflect on the year that was, I remember how I felt writing this message for our annual report a year ago. It feels similar but different this year. The stress of the pandemic still looms large, but the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines and the promise of a new growing season bring feelings of greater hope and optimism. Like a marathon runner nearing the finish line of a long race, I recognize that the past year has not been easy but I am energized by what we have accomplished and what is yet to come.
Last fall, we launched an advertising campaign using our Dream. Grow. Thrive. tagline, articulating our unrelenting support for the industry. This type of campaign was an unusual promotional opportunity for FCC as we sought to express our support for the full farm-to-table value chain that makes up the Canadian agriculture and food industry, while also acknowledging the efforts of all the businesses and individuals rallying to produce food in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our TV, web and physical ads stated, “If you’re behind Canadian food, we’re behind you.” I think this message speaks volumes to FCC’s role in the months and years to come. Our higher purpose statement is to serve the industry that feeds the world, inspiring possibility and passion. I am happy to report we are living into this purpose, both in our words and our actions.