OMERS, the $54-billion pension plan for Ontario municipal workers, is shifting the way it invests in Canadian stocks, getting rid of the team that focuses specifically on Canada.
The move, which resulted in three job losses including that of team head Barbara Bale, raised speculation among traders that the fund is going to do more passive index investing.
However, that's not the case, said John Pierce, an OMERS spokesman who confirmed the moves. The fund will invest in Canadian stocks in its quantitative program, which involves sophisticated computer driven trading strategies. The fund's global stock team will take over responsibility for picking Canadian stocks on an fundamental basis.
"We will not become passive indexers," said Mr. Pierce. "We are still going to be active investors in the Canadian market, we will be doing that through an active quant investment program and on a fundamental basis using our global portfolio."
Mr. Pierce said that move is "consistent with other institutional investors."
Under chief executive officer Michael Nobrega, OMERS has been moving to a more global stance. The fund recently opened a New York office, and its Omers Worldwide initiative is focused on finding investments outside of Canada.
The biggest Canadian pension funds have increasingly moving to quantitative strategies for much of their stock investing. Rather than picking stocks by looking at individual companies, quantitative strategies involve using computer models that seek to find advantages in global markets. Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board are big users.
Using such strategies allow funds to run more money in stocks. A computer driven quant portfolio sniffing around the world for opportunities can handle vast sums of money, while the universe of Canadian stocks is quite small for a big pension fund looking to invest significant sums.