Canadian pension players making donations, investments to alleviate coronavirus pressure

With a world in turmoil, some of Canada’s public pension plans and investment managers are considering how they can use their economic clout to help.

The British Columbia Investment Management Corp. realized there was a responsibility in its staff working from home because of the coronavirus. Normally, staff are encouraged each year to take a day of paid leave to volunteer with a cause of their choice. “Since we’re all at home working, we can’t volunteer anymore,” says Ben O’Hara-Byrne, external communication manager for the BCI.

In a bid to replace that opportunity for charity, the BCI donated $75,000 to the Victoria Foundation’s Rapid Relief Fund, which will directly support those in the area where most BCI employees live.

Read: How HSBC Bank Canada supports employee volunteering, charity work

As the outbreak escalated, Gordon Fyfe, the BCI’s chief executive and investment officer, suggested employees add to the donation. “They were so impressed with the amount of employees that donated that the management team then donated an extra $50,000 of their own money to the same fund,” says O’Hara-Byrne. “So it was a total of $125,000 — $75,000 from BCI, $50,000 from management, as well a not-tabulated number donated by other BCI employees either publicly or anonymously.”

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec is also making charitable donations, but is using some of its investments to help Quebec businesses as well.

Along with a $300,000 community donation, the Caisse is putting together a $4-billion envelope to support Quebec companies temporarily impacted by the virus. The funds will go toward meeting the liquidity needs of companies both in and out of the Caisse’s portfolio. To be eligible, the companies must have been profitable before the pandemic, have a promising growth outlook in their sector and need financing of more than $5 million.

Read: How to tie workplace philanthropy into employee engagement, wellness

“It’s essential for the CDPQ to join the collective effort during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Charles Emond, president and chief executive officer of the Caisse, in a press release. “The envelope announced today, and the personalized advice that our teams provide to portfolio companies, represent important contributions to Quebec’s economy in these difficult but temporary circumstances. This initiative is a good example of our twofold mission to meet the needs of our depositors and support Quebec’s companies and economy.”

The Caisse’s community donations will be divided among five organizations, including the Canadian Red Cross. It also said it will freeze the salaries of management and postpone their variable compensation until the third quarter of 2020.

Read: Half of Canadians consider employer’s commitment to charity, community: survey