The Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan has named its top investment professional to succeed CEO Jim Keohane, who retires this month after eight years in the top job and two decades at the organization.
Jeff Wendling, 59, becomes HOOPP’s new president and chief executive effective April 1. Like Mr. Keohane, 65, he’s a HOOPP veteran, having joined in 1998 as a senior portfolio manager on the public equities team. He served as co-chief investment officer for the past six years and added an executive vice-president title in 2018, not long after David Long, his fellow co-CIO, left HOOPP.
“I think we’ve built something very special here at HOOPP,” Mr. Wendling said Tuesday in an interview. “It’s one of the top-performing plans in the world on many metrics, and we’re in a strongly funded position. And I think as an inside candidate, I know much of what’s helped us to be successful, what we need to preserve and build upon.”
Dan Anderson, the chair of HOOPP’s board of trustees, said in a statement that the plan chose Mr. Wendling from among “many strong candidates.” He cited his “deep knowledge of HOOPP, pension plans and the global investment landscape.”
HOOPP provides retirement income for 350,000 provincial health-care workers, including nurses and medical technicians, at more than 570 employers. The plan had $79-billion in assets at the end of 2018, double the amount in 2012 when Mr. Keohane assumed the CEO role. It has roughly $1.20 in assets for every dollar it owes to its members in future benefits.
The plan posted an annual return of 11.19 per cent from 2009 to 2018 against a performance benchmark of 8.43 per cent over that period. HOOPP says it has beaten its benchmark in every year since 2008. It posted a return of 2.17 per cent in 2018, when poor stock-market performance in the fourth quarter dampened most plans’ results. (HOOPP will release its 2019 results this month.)
“While I’m not necessarily tipping off our returns, this plan is getting close to $100-billion, and we expect it to continue to grow over time,” Mr. Wendling said. “And we are a relatively younger plan demographically than some of the other plans, so we expect to see continued growth. So we have to think about programs that we can continue to scale up and whether we need new programs.”
Mr. Wendling cites HOOPP’s entry into infrastructure last year and the continued increase in private equity and real-estate investing since he became co-CIO in 2012. He also says there will likely be more international investing.
“HOOPP has been very historically focused on North America and Western Europe in terms of our investments, and that’s served us very well," he said. “But I do think we need to look geographically more broadly as we get bigger and try to access some of the faster-growing parts of the world and look for opportunities there, so I think you’ll see a focus on looking internationally. All of our peers have international offices, and we don’t.”
The HOOPP leadership transition is yet another change at the top of Canada’s big pensions this year. Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec named its No. 2, former Bank of Nova Scotia investment banker Charles Émond, to succeed Michael Sabia earlier this year. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan elevated Jo Taylor, its head of international investing, to the CEO post on Jan. 1, replacing the retiring Ron Mock. And the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System said president Blake Hutcheson will take its CEO job in June, replacing the retiring Michael Latimer.
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