Announcing the winners of the Pension Leadership Awards

Pension investments are a key component of ensuring secure benefits for plan members upon their retirement. To celebrate the plan sponsors and pension investors who work hard to ensure strong investment outcomes, the first-ever Pension Leadership Awards recognized winners across several categories.

Congratulations to all the winners. You can view highlights about the winners below:

Chief Investment Officer of the Year Award- Julie Cays, Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology pension plan

Julie Cays is the chief investment officer of the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology pension plan. She joined CAAT in 2006 and has 35 years of experience in capital markets, previously serving as the vice-president of external managers at the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan and as the director of capital management at CIBC. Since 2006, Julie has led the CAAT pension plan in transitioning from a traditional asset mix with $5.3 billion of assets under management to a highly diversified portfolio with $13.5 billion under management, including alternative assets. The CAAT plan’s investment performance has seen a 10-year annualized rate of return of 10 per cent. Cays also oversaw the implementation of CAAT’s private market fund and co-investment programs in private equity, infrastructure and real estate. Further, in December 2019, her team allocated an approximately $1 billion in pension asset transfers following the pension mergers with Torstar Corporation and the Canadian Press.

Defined Contribution Investment Innovation Award- Ontario Medical Association/OMA Insurance

The Ontario Medical Association directed OMA Insurance to create and launch the Advantages Retirement Plan in February 2020, which is open to more than 42,000 OMA members, as well as their spouses and common-law partners. The plan is comprised of a group registered retirement savings plan, a group tax-free savings account and a group registered retirement income fund. The Advantages Retirement Plan has an investment committee with fiduciary oversight and plan members can select from various investment options available. On the decumulation side, the plan has a guaranteed lifetime income feature that allows members to convert a portion of their savings into annuities. The Advantages Retirement Plan also includes a digital tool that focuses on setting a target retirement income and can help members determine how much they can expect from government savings and how much they need to save. Despite the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the plan is continuing to grow with over $4 million in assets under management.

Investment Governance Award- Concordia University Pension Plan

The Concordia University Pension plan is an open defined benefit plan with $1.15 billion in assets under management. The pension plan has transformed its investment strategy and restructured its investment policy to be aligned to its funding policy. Originally, the plan’s governance was run by a single committee that covered operations, recommendations, decision-making and monitoring. After the governance transformation, the plan sponsor reshaped duties and created a dedicated operations team, specialized sub-committees and a global decision-making committee. It also implemented a governance budget concept that seeks to dedicate specific time at each meeting to strategic discussions, education, report reviews and administrative responsibilities. Further, the organization increased the level of governance engagement from four global meetings to eleven meetings at the investment sub-committee level and five meetings at the pension committee level.

Risk Management Award – Trans-Canada Capital Inc. (Formerly Air Canada Pension Investments)

In 2009, the Air Canada pension plan, comprised of eight defined benefit plans, was in a severe solvency deficit. In response, the company hired a new investment team to implement an investment strategy, which used derivatives and leverage, to achieve better returns and lower the pension plan’s risk. It significantly decreased exposure to equities, introduced alternative asset classes and increased its allocation to liability-matching assets. It also diversified its sources of active risk and reduced the overall risk compared to liabilities by more than half. Over time, the investment team has helped turned the pension plan around, eliminating a $4.2 billion deficit and reaching a surplus of $2.6 billion by 2019. The plan now has $22.5 billion in assets under management and uses a holistic risk management approach. It has fully integrated risk management throughout its investment process and also recently expanded its compliance team as an additional line of defence.

Sustainable Investing Award- Bâtirente

Bâtirente is a group pension system that was established by the Confederation of National Trade Unions in Quebec for its affiliated local unions. Bâtirente has $763.3 million in assets under management and covers 23,000 unionized members from 300 different workplaces. Bâtirente’s board started looking at non-financial risk management in 2005 and implemented guidelines focused on: ESG integration by portfolio managers, shareholder engagement with portfolio companies and increased transparency in ESG reporting. Since 2016, Bâtirente has focused its commitment to sustainable investing on four areas: investment, engagement, measurement and cooperation. The organization reports annually on its responsible investing results and has also been calculating the carbon footprint of its equity portfolios since 2014. Of note, as of Dec. 31, 2018 the overall carbon footprint of its equity portfolio was 12 per cent lower than the market benchmark. Further, more than 12 per cent of Bâtirente’s assets are now deployed in strategies supporting environmental transition and climate change. In 2020 the organization also made further commitments to ESG including to reduce its exposure to climate risk by 50 per cent by 2025 and to double its allocation to impact investments that contribute to environmental solutions.

For more information on the Pension Leadership Awards visit: