PayPal Canada general manager Paul Parisi, shown here at the company's Toronto headquarters on Feb. 23, thinks Canada is uniquely positioned to become a leader in the ecommerce industry.

Published: February 24th, 2017

TORONTO – Considering he graduated from the University of Guelph and serves as PayPal Canada’s general manager, you could be forgiven for thinking that Paul Parisi has an ulterior motive when he says Canada is in a unique position to become a leader in the ecommerce sector.

Yet during his 17 years in the payments industry, the majority of it spent with American Express, Parisi has worked in the U.S. and U.K. in addition to Canada, and so there’s more than a little personal experience feeding his belief that Canada has something special compared to his former host countries.

He also has the numbers to back his opinion up.

“There are technology leaders in other parts of the world, there are innovation hubs in other parts of the world, and there are strong financial centres in other parts of the world – but there are very few places where the technology, innovation, and financial leaders all sit in the same place,” he says.

“When you think about the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, not only is it a technology leader and financial hub, there are almost 6000 startups in this one little space. That’s some of the most concentrated startup space anywhere in the world, and it makes Toronto unique.”

Though PayPal currently processes payments for more than 250,000 Canadian retailers and businesses – a drop in the bucket compared to the company’s 15 million merchant accounts worldwide – Canada’s ecommerce industry is growing more quickly than its international counterparts, Parisi says, and is expected to reach $37 billion in 2017: an 18 per cent annual increase, compared to nine per cent for the U.S. or seven per cent for the U.K.

Considering our population (36.2 million at last count), Canada’s ecommerce industry should be proud that it now enjoys a customer base equal to or greater than the strength of its merchant base, with PayPal alone serving 6.5 million customers across the country, he notes.

While it’s played a leading role in the digital transformation efforts of many Canadian companies since arriving here many years ago, too many of PayPal’s largest customers have only recently begun catching up to their startup counterparts, Parisi says.

“We’re not just a growing market; other countries got off to a faster start,” he admits. “But Canadians are picking up fast.”

Moreover, the innovation Canada delivers to the ecommerce industry is unique as well, he says.

“Within Canadian culture, we see a lot more opportunities for cross-border international trade that other parts of the world might ignore, which forces innovative solutions that have been a big plus for PayPal’s global operations,” Parisi says.

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