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A new strategic collaborative project between the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System and an artificial intelligence-oriented think tank is aiming to expand the use of AI software in the pension space.

Through the partnership, which is expected to last for the next five years, the Toronto-based Vector Institute’s researchers will provide the OMERS’ staff with hands-on experience with AI models and techniques. The strategy has a long-term goal: to provide the OMERS’ team with the necessary expertise to find potential uses for AI technology within the pension sector.

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According to Monique Allen, the OMERS’ executive vice-president of data and technology, the collaboration presents the OMERS with the opportunity to develop new practices and attract top talent. “We are very eager to learn more from the specific insights generated by the research network organized around Vector when it comes to machine learning and deep learning and understand how we can leverage the new knowledge created by this community.”

The Vector Institute has worked in a similar capacity with other businesses in the broader financial sector, but the OMERS is the first pension organization it has been involved with. It isn’t, however, the pension fund’s first foray into working with AI technology.

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“Our collaboration with Vector builds on some work we have completed internally through our own artificial intelligence programs,” says Allen. “This initiative has been transforming the way OMERS works, by unlocking capacity for employees at every level to innovate and grow.”

Last year, the organization launched an internal AI centre of expertise. Its work has involved using machine learning to generate portfolio insights and to optimize environmental, social and governance goals.