TORONTO - It began as a Grade 6 public speaking assignment that Victoria Grant only planned to deliver in front of a handful of classmates. It ended as a fast-paced financial lecture that engrossed attendees at an international banking conference and earned the 13-year-old a fervent online fan base.
The transition from regular student to pint-sized pundit took little more than two months and threatened to make life for the Cambridge, Ont., teen even more complex than the banking systems she was trying to dissect.
But Grant says her taste of cyber stardom was little more than an extension of her everyday life.
"I have been doing speeches and poems for my school, " Grant said in a telephone interview. "I'm comfortable sometimes speaking in front of people. It's not that hard for me."
Grant decided to grapple with the complex topic of international lending practices when she was assigned to prepare and deliver a presentation for her school speech meet. Drawing upon YouTube documentaries and her father's knowledge of the subject, Grant crafted a six-minute address expounding on why so many countries are faced with staggering debt.
The speech — which includes a brief history lesson on Canada's banking structure — eventually takes aim at the modern day financial system and champions a greater role for the country's central bank.
Grant said her initial presentation was well-received, but things only began to escalate when she came to the attention of a teacher with connections to financial consulting firm Primerica Canada.
The teacher arranged for Grant to address the company, and from there her reputation began to spread.
On April 27, scarcely two months after delivering the speech for the first time, Grant was addressing the Public Banking in America Conference in Philadelphia and kicking off a series of lectures that kept her busy for the next several months.
Grant appeared before Toronto city council, but also got to travel farther afield. Her family was forced to decline invitations to major U.S. cities including San Francisco, but were able to venture out to Montreal for a financial conference and Ottawa for anniversary celebrations for the Bank of Canada.
While there, however, Grant learned that Internet fame is no guarantee of reaching a wide audience.
"Not many people showed up. It was only three or four," she said. "I do want to get more next time."
Life has returned to a more leisurely pace since she began school this past September, Grant said. Her notoriety hasn't damaged her reputation with her friends, who envy her recent travels even if they don't share her enthusiasm for financial affairs.
The lecture circuit has taken a back seat to Grant's other passions, namely soccer, volleyball and learning about interior design. But things are expected to heat up again as the Grade 7 speech meet looms.
Grant has already decided to tackle a presentation exploring ways in which putting a stop to private banking could alleviate poverty, and this time she's ready to face a larger audience from the get-go.
"We'll probably put it on the Internet too because people are asking for another one, and then from there we'll probably be asked other places."
- Banking & Budgeting