For his vocal advocacy for public policy to improve retirement outcomes for Canadians, his role in the introduction of an innovative investment strategy at OPTrust and as a global promoter of the Canadian defined benefit pension model, Hugh O’Reilly was named industry leader of the year at Benefits Canada’s 2016 Workplace Benefits Awards in Toronto last week.
“It’s humbling,” O’Reilly said after winning the award. “I think this is an industry that has a lot of great people, a lot of people who have made significant contributions and have innovated, so to be recognized by the industry is very exciting … Getting people to talk like Benefits Canada does is very important to the industry.”
O’Reilly has been president and chief executive officer of OPTrust since January 2015. Prior to taking on the role, he led the pension benefits and insolvency practice group at Cavalluzzo Shilton McIntyre Cornish LLP, worked as a partner at Torys LLP, and was the chair of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario’s pension legal advisory committee. During this time he was involved in high-profile pension insolvencies, such as Air Canada, Canadian Press, Canwest and Indalex.
Under O’Reilly’s leadership, OPTrust has introduced a new member-driven investing strategy designed to increase sustainability and stability for the plan’s members. In doing so, it has made funded status the primary measure of success, rather than annual investment returns.
In 2016, OPTrust played an important role in the retirement income debate, says O’Reilly. “I think we were constructive, I think we were helpful to decision makers and I think we also helped to publicize both what’s going on, what we see as a retirement income crisis, but as well in putting forward solutions. I think that’s what I’m proudest of.”
In his role at OPTrust, O’Reilly has also advocated for the defined benefit pension industry to reconsider how it measures success in the interest of creating greater alignment with the interests of plan members, and will keep this focus into 2017.
“We’re going to continue our work as a pension plan to ensure we keep our promise to our members, which is deliver benefits at the price they are currently paying, continuing to lead a debate where we change the focus of the industry from relative returns to funded status (that’s the clear measure of success), and also continuing to work with our peers and with our sponsors in promoting retirement income security,” says O’Reilly.
He continues to champion responsible investing initiatives in the industry in many ways, including speaking engagements at the Shareholder Association for Research and Education‘s B.C. Pension Forum, active participation in the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance and being a signatory to industry advocacy efforts on climate change.
Read more about the winners of the 2016 Workplace Benefits Awards
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