Great question! When you open a non-registered account (i.e., a Personal, Joint or Smart Savings account), we have to take a few extra steps to verify your identity as these accounts are not registered with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
This verification involves confirming the details you entered with a credit reporting agency. If all of your details match, then your account will open right away! However, if there are discrepancies, we first ask you to confirm those details to make sure they were entered correctly when signing up. If necessary, we then ask you to provide us with additional documentation, such as a utility/phone/internet bill or a T4 statement or Notice of Assessment.
With a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) or Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), the contributions are submitted to the CRA annually as these accounts are "registered". As a result, they open automatically! However, the contributions for non-registered accounts are not sent to the CRA and so for anti-money laundering (AML) purposes, we perform this extra step of verification to make sure we are not dealing with any unsavoury types and to protect our clients' identities.
If you are fairly young or recently immigrated to Canada, its possible that you do not have an existing file with our credit reporting agency or you have only been on file with them a few short months. In those cases, we will ask you for additional documentation - don't worry, we will reach out if that is the case!
For more details on this identity verification process and what is appropriate documentation, check out this article by FINTRAC (Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada).