Two senior Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System executives are leaving the pension fund manager this month, adding to executive turnover two weeks after the appointment of a new chief investment officer.
Annesley Wallace, the global head of infrastructure at OMERS, is departing at the end of the month. Ms. Wallace is leaving to take a new job at energy infrastructure company TC Energy Corp., where she will be executive vice-president in charge of strategy, corporate development and energy transition planning, according to a source with knowledge of the move.
And the head of OMERS growth equity, Mark Shulgan, who led the pension giant’s investments in later-stage tech startups, is leaving on April 21. Michael Block, the senior managing director of private equity at OMERS, is taking over leadership of the growth equity platform. Two sources familiar with the situation said Mr. Shulgan was pushed out of the organization.
The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources, because they were not authorized to discuss details of internal changes publicly.
In e-mailed statements, OMERS spokesperson Neil Hrab confirmed Ms. Wallace and Mr. Shulgan’s forthcoming departures, and thanked them for their contributions to the pension manager. He also confirmed that Mr. Block will assume leadership of OMERS growth equity.
“The changes do not have an impact on our Ventures or Growth Equity programs. Our group is well established, with over a decade of investing and a history of great returns. We are still actively deploying capital,” Mr. Hrab said.
Ms. Wallace and Mr. Shulgan declined to comment.
OMERS announced the departures to staff this week, after other high-level staff changes in recent months. Ralph Berg officially started as chief investment officer on April 1, taking over from predecessor Satish Rai in a change first announced in early February. That same month, OMERS hired Daniel Fournier as the new head of its real estate arm, Oxford Properties Group Inc., drawing him out of retirement to serve as executive chair. He succeeded Michael Turner, who stepped down after five years as Oxford’s president.
Ms. Wallace spent 11 years at OMERS and served as chief pension officer before she was appointed to lead the global infrastructure team two years ago. In that role, she oversaw a $26.3-billion portfolio and helped build out operations abroad, including in Australia and Singapore. The infrastructure arm performed well in 2022, earning a 12.5-per-cent return against a 7.7-per-cent internal benchmark in a busy year that included a number of acquisitions and sales of assets.
She is the latest in a series of high-level executives to depart the infrastructure group in recent years, including managing directors Juan Camargo and Philippe Busslinger, who left last year, and Paul Calder and Michael Ryder, who left in 2021.
Mr. Block, who previously served as senior managing director of capital solutions, a unit that invests in life sciences and alternative capital structures, joined OMERS in 2015 after working as a principal with Boston Consulting Group. He had reported directly to Mr. Berg when Mr. Berg was global head of capital markets.
Mr. Shulgan, a former investment banker, joined OMERS in September, 2018, after leading the thematic investing group at Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, where he oversaw a $5-billion portfolio of public and private investments in technology, health care and consumer companies.
He was hired to build the growth investment group at OMERS by John Ruffolo, who led venture capital investing at the pension fund from 2011 to 2018. In that time, Mr. Ruffolo’s mandate expanded to include what are known as platform investments – initial investments in an industry or market as a starting point for further deals. Mr. Shulgan was intended to have broad leeway to make minority, late-stage investments. Deals of that type had previously been passed over by the private equity group at OMERS, which preferred deals for majority stakes, a fourth source said.
For a time, Mr. Shulgan’s group was busy doing a spate of deals as the market for technology companies surged and valuations soared. On his watch, OMERS growth equity led or participated in high-profile investments that included buying stakes in Canadian software companies TouchBistro, Themis Solutions Inc. (which operates under the brand Clio), and Coveo Solutions, as well as U.S. companies Dialpad Inc. and GitLab.
Today OMERS growth equity oversees 20 investments, 11 of which were led by Mr. Shulgan, and manages about $1-billion of assets. But, since late 2021, valuations across the tech sector have tumbled, denting the value on paper of several OMERS growth investments: Coveo’s shares are down 48 per cent since its 2021 IPO, and GitLab’s stock is down 71 per cent since it went public the same year.
In spite of falling valuations for software and technology assets held by its venture and growth equity teams, OMERS’s private equity arm had a strong year in 2022, gaining 13.7 per cent and beating its benchmark.
But a fifth person familiar with OMERS’s performance said that, within its private equity division, the direct buyouts portfolio generated a 17.4-per-cent return. That suggests returns for its venture and growth portfolios were much lower, dragging down the group’s overall results. The 17.4-per-cent return, which was not publicly disclosed by OMERS, was first reported by Buyouts Insider last month.