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Public Sector Pension Investment Board says chief executive officer Neil Cunningham will retire in March, 2023, after 19 years at the fund, with the past four in the top job.

The move is another transition at the top for the “Maple Eight” – the largest public pensions in Canada. Six of those plans have appointed new CEOs since the beginning of 2020.

Mr. Cunningham’s retirement means Gordon Fyfe, who has held the top job at British Columbia Investment Management Corp. since 2014, will be the longest-serving Canadian pension CEO. Mr. Fyfe joined BCIMC after 11 years as CEO of PSP.

Mr. Cunningham joined PSP in 2004 to lead its real estate team, later assuming oversight of the natural resources team. PSP promoted him to the top job in 2018 when predecessor André Bourbonnais joined BlackRock Inc.

At the time, Montreal-based PSP had just opened New York and London offices. Mr. Cunningham oversaw the opening of a new Hong Kong office, and told The Globe and Mail in 2021 that continued expansion in Asia was one of PSP’s top priorities. “They are becoming an increasingly large share of global markets and global activity, and we need to be part of that.”

In a statement, Mr. Cunningham said PSP has “a very capable executive team in place to continue execution of PSP Investments’ strategy and business plan, permitting a smooth transition to a new leader.”

PSP said it hired an executive search firm to assist with selecting a new CEO. In a statement, Martin Glynn, chair of PSP’s board, recognized Mr. Cunningham’s “immense contributions” and said its financial performance “is a testament to his leadership.” He also thanked Mr. Cunningham “for giving us ample time to conduct a fulsome search process for a new CEO and ensure a smooth transition.”

PSP manages the pensions for more than 900,000 active and retired employees of the federal Public Service, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Reserve Force. With $204.5-billion in assets as of March 31, it’s the fourth-largest public pension investment manager in Canada, behind Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

In the year ended March 31, 2021, PSP posted an 18.4-per-cent return, its best single year in the past decade, and said its 10-year average annual return of 8.9 per cent was 0.7 percentage points better than its annual benchmark. PSP’s “reference portfolio” for external benchmarking is a blend of 59 per cent equities to 41 per cent bonds, less aggressive than CPPIB’s 85-15 mix of equities and bonds.

In the interview with The Globe last year, Mr. Cunningham defended PSP’s ownership of Revera Inc., a Canadian long-term care home operator that, like others in its industry, faced controversy over COVID-related illness and death among its residents and employees. “Our oversight of the company involves us ensuring that the board is properly overseeing the operations, and we’re satisfied from an operations perspective that Revera itself was not at fault for the results of what happened in the pandemic.”

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