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Illustration of David Denison, former chief executive officer, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and current director of BCE and RBC. (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Illustration of David Denison, former chief executive officer, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and current director of BCE and RBC. (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

THE LUNCH

David Denison: The CPPIB's portfolio manager for the people Add to ...

“As they are designed right now, I don’t think they’ll make an impact – I don’t think they’ll lead to huge change,” he said.

PRPPs must also be designed with appropriate default investment options, so people get steered into appropriate choices, he says, and must be offered at wholesale investment management prices so investors can save significantly more than investing on their own.

While Quebec has opted to set up a PRPP program, most provinces, including Ontario, are sitting on the sidelines and have not committed to the idea. Mr. Denison is worried politicians may let the issue slip away simply because it is a difficult one to address.

“I think there’s still a window of opportunity to substantially improve the retirement savings amounts of Canadians,” he said. “It would be a terrible shame if we let this opportunity slide with all this work that’s been done.”

Although he has retired after seven years overseeing the Canada Pension Plan holdings, Mr. Denison has not lost interest in the fate of the country’s public pension and retirement system. If anything, his departure from CPPIB has given him more latitude to argue that a demographic bulge of future retirees, combined with longer life expectancies and a poor ability to save, all signal a looming crisis.

Mr. Denison stops short of endorsing an expansion of the CPP as a better option, but notes it would be an easy way of ensuring the goal of improved pension coverage is met. “There’s no doubt to that outcome.”

Janet McFarland

CURRICULUM VITAE

Beginnings

Born in Gander, Nfld., where his father was stationed as an airport meteorologist. Raised in Montreal, then moved to St. Catharines, Ont., in his mid-teens and finished high school in Toronto. He’s 60 years old.

Home life

Lives in Toronto with his wife. Has a son, 19, who is in university, and a daughter, 18.

 

Career

With a mathematics and education degree from the University of Toronto, he taught high school math for six years at Cardinal Newman high school in Toronto. Quit after realizing he no longer had a passion for teaching, and completed his CA designation.

Worked for a variety of investment firms, including at Merrill Lynch in the 1980s when he was posted to Europe and the Middle East.

Joined mutual fund giant Fidelity in 1995 and later became head of Fidelity Canada.

In 2005 was named CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Retired in June.

 

Passion

Has run daily for 37 years, typically at 4:30 a.m., and chooses hotels around the world that are well-located for good morning jogs. Tries never to run in indoor gyms, but gave in during a trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil, after staff stopped him at the door and insisted it was unsafe to run outside in the dark.

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Follow on Twitter: @JMcFarlandGlobe

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