Skip to main content

The Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) has tapped an insider to become its new chief investment officer.

HOOPP said Wednesday that Michael Wissell, who previously served as senior vice president of capital markets and total portfolio, has assumed the CIO role. He takes over from Jeff Wendling, who held the role while also serving as the pension fund’s chief executive officer since April 2020. Mr. Wendling, a 23-year veteran of HOOPP, had been CIO or co-CIO for the past nine years.

Mr. Wissell joined HOOPP, which manages pension assets for more than 400,000 workers at Ontario hospitals and other health-care organizations, three years ago from Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. He worked there for 16 years, ultimately leading the public equities team and the portfolio construction group. He has served on boards including the Canadian Coalition for Good Corporate Governance and was a member of the Ontario Securities Commission’s Investor Advisory Panel.

The appointment continues HOOPP’s transition after the 2020 retirement of Jim Keohane, who spent eight years in the top job and two decades at the organization. HOOPP’s derivatives-heavy investment strategy, which it calls liability-driven investing, has allowed the plan to post a 10-year return of 11.16 per cent, versus its benchmark for that period of 8.8 per cent.

“The overarching strategy remains the same,” Mr. Wissell said in an interview on Wednesday. “What is the wellspring of HOOPP’s success? It’s tenaciously managing all of its known risks so when opportunities present themselves, you can pick up assets where you’re getting paid a decent expected return for the level of risk that you take … We can be patient and wait for the proverbial softball down the middle.”

Mr. Wissell, 57, and Jim Walker, the senior vice president of private markets, were the two top executives in the investment department reporting to the CIO. Mr. Walker had previously announced internally that he planned to leave HOOPP in October to start his own investment fund. Mr. Wissell said that for now, HOOPP will not have senior vice-presidents in the investing department, with the vice-presidents reporting directly to him instead.

Mr. Wissell will continue the fund’s move away from bonds and into private assets, particularly infrastructure, which typically has consistent cash flow that mimics what bonds used to offer.

“Bonds, which have served really well over the last 10 years, don’t have the same runway from here that they did several years ago. Even in 2018, people forget, 10-year Treasuries were three and a quarter [versus 1.3 per cent on Wednesday],” he said.

“So we’re going to rely a little less heavily on bonds and we’re going to grow some of our private investment.”

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct