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Streetwise Canada Infrastructure Bank hires first CFO, but search continues for chief executive

The Canada Infrastructure Bank has landed a chief financial officer, but the search for a CEO drags on, three years after the federal Liberals first promised the $35-billion agency.

The Toronto-based bank announced on Tuesday that Annie Ropar will be its first CFO and chief administrative officer, overseeing all finance and corporate functions.

Ms. Ropar was CFO of Aequitas Innovations Inc., which operates the NEO stock exchange, and is on the board of Ontario Growth Capital Corp., a provincial agency that supports venture capital investment. She will start at the bank on June 1.

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The government-owned bank is meant to spur investment in infrastructure by providing minority equity stakes or loans to private-sector projects that might otherwise fail to get off the ground. Pension plans and other institutional investors are seen as potential partners. The infrastructure bank concept was initially promised by the Liberals in the 2015 election campaign and enshrined in legislation as part of the 2017 budget.

The bank is still looking for a chief executive officer and sources in the banking sector say chair and acting CEO Janice Fukakusa is close to filling the role. Ms. Fukakusa is former CFO of Royal Bank of Canada.

A number of potential CEO candidates turned down the job because it doesn’t pay well by Bay Street standards – compensation is said to be in the $500,000- to $600,000-a-year range – and over concerns about potential government interference in the bank’s decisions. The federal cabinet must approve the bank’s investments.

Ms. Fukakusa has repeatedly said that the bank plans to begin investing by the end of 2018.

Once the bank is fully staffed, Ms. Ropar and the still-to-be-named CEO can expect a long line of infrastructure executives to come knocking on their door.

At a packed breakfast presentation this month hosted by the Public Policy Forum, infrastructure bank interim chief investment officer Bruno Guilmette fielded semi-serious requests for money from several audience members. Via Rail Canada Inc. CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano asked for $4-billion to build a dedicated passenger link between Quebec City and Windsor. Mr. Guilmette asked for patience from those looking for funding from the agency and joked: “There are more good ideas in this room than employees at the bank.”

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