The Ontario Pension Board is announcing its plans for managing the coming departures of two of its top executives — Mark Fuller, president and chief executive officer, and Peter Shena, executive vice-president and chief pension officer.

Shena (pictured right) will be stepping down from his role at the end of 2023, while Fuller (pictured left) will be leaving at the end of 2024. Plans for their departures have been underway for several years, according to the $31-billion defined benefit pension plan.

“As we’ve considered this transition over a long period of time, we will be deliberate and careful about searching for the right people to carry forward our strong culture,” said Fuller in a statement to the Canadian Investment Review. “The CEO and CPO need to be joined at the hip and in complete alignment strategically, as Peter and I have been.”

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To facilitate the plan’s transition to new leadership, the board launched a succession working group. “The board is committed to finding leaders who will not only bring the right skills to the roles, but who will continue the advancement of OPB’s thriving culture and our advisory services model,” said Shena in a statement to the Canadian Investment Review.

The pension fund has tasked an executive search firm with assisting in the recruitment of permanent successors. According to Shena, it will initially search for a single individual, a strategic thinker with exceptional stakeholder management and relationship-building skills, broad executive-level experience and professional exposure to pension plans and governmental organizations.

“In terms of leadership style, this person should inspire and empower and be authentic and collaborative, setting the tone from the top in a way that encourages accountability and performance excellence, modelling and embracing change,” said Shena. “They will also [need to] be skilled at balancing prudence with appropriate levels of risk-taking.”

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The successful candidate, who will join as president and interim CPO, will become the president and CEO after Fuller’s departure. During the interim stage, the candidate will work alongside Shena within the pension group. And he’ll remain available to support his successor in 2024.

The candidate will also work with Fuller to transition into the role of president and CEO and help in the selection of a permanent CPO. “I have to say that it will be tough to replace Peter with one person — he is one of the most knowledgeable and capable pension experts in the country [and] his portfolio of responsibilities at OPB has been extensive,” said Fuller.

Dave Bulmer, a board director at the OPB and president of the AMAPCEO (formerly known as the Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario), says both departing executives will leave a lasting mark on the organization. “[The OPB has] gone above and beyond by focusing on [environmental, social and governance issues], the modernization of its technology and by championing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. They’ve also really instilled a positive work culture — something no one should ever take for granted.”

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John Cerasuolo, president of the Ontario Provincial Police Association, adds Fuller and Shena took steps to ensure transparency was taken seriously at the OPB. “When police officers hear about market downturns, we worry about what it will mean for our retirements. Mark and Peter always took the time to educate our members and they made sure our pensions were positioned for steady growth in any market environment.”

During the period that Fuller and Shena held these roles at the OPB, they pursued two major initiatives that transformed the organization — the 2015 implementation of a new pension advisory services model and the 2017 launch of the Investment Management Corp. of Ontario.

“We launched advisory services because we believed it was our responsibility to provide members with the support and unbiased guidance they need to make well-informed decisions that support their financial well-being in retirement,” said Shena.

Fuller led the efforts to launch the IMCO and designed its governance structure. Shena took responsibility for helping to educate the stakeholder organizations about the value provided by asset pooling and securing the buy-in of other founding stakeholder organizations.

“The creation of the IMCO gave us all a level of comfort about our retirement stability,” says Cerasuolo. “By creating it, Mark and Peter will continue to help us enjoy comfortable retirements as they enjoy their own.”

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