Jo Taylor Named Ontario Teachers' Next CEO

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan just named Jo Taylor President and CEO effective January 1, 2020, succeeding Ron Mock, who retires at year-end:
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (Ontario Teachers’) is pleased to announce the appointment of Jo Taylor as its new President and CEO, effective January 1, 2020. Mr. Taylor, currently Executive Managing Director, Global Development, will succeed Ron Mock, who is retiring on December 31, 2019 after almost two decades at Ontario Teachers’.

“We selected Jo because he will be an excellent driver of the Ontario Teachers’ brand, and for his ability to advance the organization’s global effectiveness and build for the future,” said Ontario Teachers’ Board Chair Steve McGirr. “We believe that Jo will enhance the total-fund approach, address the challenges of today’s investment environment, and uphold the tradition of successfully delivering on the pension promise for our members. He is also known for building high-performing, multicultural teams globally.”

Good governance is a cornerstone of the organization and a comprehensive succession review process began in 2018. The Board reviewed a broad and diverse set of candidates, both from within the organization and externally, and determined that the organization has an incredibly strong pipeline of internal talent.

"The Board has made an excellent choice in appointing Jo, and I am confident that under his poised and steady leadership the organization and its members will be in good hands,” said Mr. Mock. "His extensive global investing experience over the last 35 years, his strategic vision, and his passion for the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and its success make Jo an excellent choice. Given his significant experience, I know he will make a positive difference in moving this organization forward.”

Mr. Taylor joined Ontario Teachers’ in 2012, leading Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) operations and subsequently assuming additional responsibility for operations in Asia-Pacific, before being appointed to his present role in August 2018. Mr. Taylor currently oversees the investment teams operating in Ontario Teachers’ international offices; setting strategy, reviewing investment proposals, managing key relationships and optimizing the allocation of resources.

“I am honoured by the Board’s confidence in appointing me as the new CEO, and look forward to the challenge of furthering our global competitiveness, and ensuring the best possible results for our members, employees, plan sponsors and investment partners,” said Mr. Taylor. “As a direct result of Ron’s strategic vision and leadership, Ontario Teachers’ is well positioned for the future. He has guided the organization through a complex competitive landscape, ensuring the sustainability of the plan, and advancing our talent and technology.”

Mr. Mock joined Ontario Teachers’ in 2001, becoming a respected and influential industry leader in the pension industry both in Canada and abroad. “Ron has done a remarkable job of furthering Ontario Teachers’ global mandate. Thanks to his leadership and vision, the organization is well positioned to sustainably meet its mission in the future. Ron has also had the foresight to focus on what lies ahead, both from an investment perspective and as the organization takes on the challenges of technology, innovation, and attracting and retaining top talent,” noted Mr. McGirr. “Ontario Teachers’ has been my home for close to 20 years, the last six as CEO,” Mr. Mock added. “I’ve seen Ontario Teachers’ evolve in many ways over that time. But at our core, what remains the same is the drive and determination of our people to do the right thing, for our members, and for the communities in which we operate. It has been a privilege to have been CEO of this remarkable organization. I know that Jo will continue to lead the organization to a new level of success.”

Under Mr. Mock’s leadership, Ontario Teachers’ net assets have grown by $50.3 billion to $191.1 billion at December 31, 2018, up from $140.8 billion at December 31, 2013. During this period the fund has achieved a five-year annualized total-fund net return of 8%, and a cumulative five-year net value add of $14.2 billion, which is 1.5% above the policy benchmark. Mr. Mock has done an exceptional job of building Ontario Teachers’ global perspective, ensuring the sustainability of the plan, and shaping the organization’s brand, culture and focus on talent. As CEO, Mr. Mock oversaw the growth of the Ontario Teachers’ London and Hong Kong offices, and made the strategic decision that the Toronto office will move from its current location at Yonge and Finch to the downtown core in 2023. Mr. Mock is credited with pushing the organization to become more innovative, technically as well as in its mindset. He will continue to lead as CEO until he retires at the end of this year, and will assist Mr. Taylor to ensure a smooth and stable transition.
This afternoon, I had a chance to speak with Ron Mock and Jo Taylor, OTPP's next CEO.

I want to begin by thanking both of them for taking the time to talk with me, I really enjoyed our conversation. I also want to thank Lisa Papas, Managing Director, Marketing & Communications, for setting this up on short notice.

Ron began by stating the Board started looking for the next CEO "in earnest" last April and there was a "very intensive and exhaustive review which included internal and external candidates."

He said every CEO of Ontario Teachers' -- Claude Lamoureux, Jim Leech and himself -- had a particular set of circumstances and their own unique objectives.

It was determined by the Board that the next phase of Teachers' will be expanding their international presence and Jo Taylor had the right skill set and experience to lead this organization during this next phase.

Ron said Jo moved to Toronto a year ago but he has lived in many countries and has great international exposure working with 3i prior to joining Teachers'. He helped lead Teachers' team in London and has extensive private equity and infrastructure experience and has sat on many boards of companies owned by Teachers' and even prior to joining Teachers'.

Importantly, Ron said: "Jo has seen many cycles and is a great leader with tremendous experience growing companies."

Over the next six months, there is a "healthy transition plan" where Jo will be working side by side with Ron to familiarize himself with all aspects of Teachers' including member services and other important parts of the job he needs to understand.

Ron told me when he assumed the reins from Jim Leech, working alongside him during the six months prior to taking over was "invaluable" and gave him "a running start."

The conversation then switched over to Jo. I told him he's a bit of an enigma to me and the pension world so I wanted to give him the right exposure on my blog so people can familiarize themselves with him.

On Teachers' website, it states the following:
Jo is responsible for advancing Ontario Teachers' global effectiveness across the entire enterprise. He works closely with other executive team members, and international colleagues, to collectively design and execute our international investment strategy and associated support requirements.

Jo has more than 35 years of investment experience, including 20 years with 3i Group plc, an international private equity and infrastructure investor. There he held a number of senior Group Management roles including CEO of their US subsidiary. At Ontario Teachers', he is a member of the Investment Committees for private companies and total fund allocations. He also oversees the investment teams operating in the international offices to set strategy, review investment proposals, manage key relationships and optimise the allocation of resources.

Jo is currently a non-executive director at Camelot Group, which operates the National Lottery in the UK. He holds an MBA from Manchester Business School and a BA (Honours) from London University.
Jo told me he began working in 1984 (looks a lot younger) and has lived and worked in Asia, North America, and Europe and is very appreciative of different cultural perspectives and sensitivities.

He built out the London office and then moved to Hong Kong to help build out that office. He loved the experience and learned a lot working closely with his colleagues.

He told me he's "humbled and feels hugely privileged" to be Teachers' next CEO. I told him he has huge responsibilities and is now part of a very small and venerable club.

He has extensive experience in VC, private equity and infrastructure and has helped many CEOs grow their companies. "That experience allowed me to gain intimate knowledge of the challenges these CEOs faced growing their companies internationally."

He has worked closely with Ron over the last 18 months to build Teachers' brand globally, making sure Teachers' is a "partner of choice" by making sure they have the right people in place to add value.

The focus is on building Teachers' capabilities and brand in parts of the world where future opportunities lie and where "pricing is still attractive."

He said they have built out their capabilities in Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America and wants to make sure they continue building Teachers' brand internationally.

"There's a clear strategy for developing people of different backgrounds and making them better so we are the partner of choice."

I told him I was very impressed that Teachers' was chosen by SpaceX for their latest round of financing. He mentioned the Verily deal and Ron whispered "Tencent" in his ear.

Jo said he wants Teachers' to be a great partner, giving access to more than capital, adding real value to their partnerships so they can ensure they are the partner of choice on important deals.

I told him having capital isn't a differentiating factor and he completely agreed. "Long-term capital isn't meaningful, you need to bring something else to the table, execute, add value and help companies grow."

He added: "Where long-term capital is meaningful is we don't feel the same pressure to sell in a short time frame. We can grow the business and sell when it's the right time."

I then told him he will unfortunately be at the helm of Teachers' when the next crisis hits and asked how he feels about that.

Ron chimed in and said "Ontario Teachers' is in great shape, fully funded and this with the lowest discount rate among public pension plans (2.75% real)."

He said in 2016, they rebalanced the portfolio, did more "risk rebalancing". Second, they started hedging more currency risk to make sure they don't swamp overall returns and add undue risk.

Third, and most importantly, Ron told me Teachers' now has "excess liquidity" with its surplus ($10 billion) and it allows them to rebalance their portfolio to take advantage as opportunities arise.

"So, we are on the right path. If we hit a rough patch, low vol, excess liquidity and with Jo at the helm supported by an exceptional CIO, Ziad Hindo, we will weather the storm" (I agree, Ziad is exceptional and will be instrumental to Jo).

Jo agreed and added this: "I don't know when the next crisis will hit but I want to make sure we are prepared for the risks and opportunities as they present themselves."

I ended by noting "the Brits are taking over Canada" as Jo Taylor and Mark Machin are both British (I have a very high regard for Mark in every sense). Jo chuckled and told me he's very humbled and looking forward to assuming his new role in six months (in the meantime, along with Ron, he will meet all the CEOs of Canada's major pensions).

I wish Jo Taylor much success when he assumes this important role in January. In the meantime, he has a great teacher in Ron who will show him the ropes of the job.

I did receive some emails questioning Jo Taylor's appointment. I realize these are very competitive contests and some people felt strongly that a woman should have been nominated as the next CEO of Teachers' (after all, most Ontario teachers are women).

All I can say is you need to trust the process and have confidence in Ontario Teachers' board. Jo Taylor was chosen for a reason and if Ron Mock thinks it's a great choice, that tells me a lot. Also, after speaking with him, I found him very humble, intelligent and nice and I'm sure he will be a great leader.

Having said this, I am a stickler for diversity and if I had to hazard a guess as to who will succeed Jo Taylor when that time comes, I'd say she ranked very high on Institutional Investors' 2019 Most Wanted Allocators list.

It's also important to note that there are other CEO contests going on at OPTrust and HOOPP, and I look forward to covering these changes when they are announced.

Lastly, I asked Ron Mock what lies ahead after Teachers' and he told me "Toronto is home” but he also wants to “spend some time in Greece and Italy."

Great choice and will end by sharing an old Greek fable on the meaning of success:
A successful Greek-American entrepreneur goes back to his village on an island after 30 years to retire. Sporting massive gold chains, gold rings and a gold Rolex, he’s sipping his ouzo and dining on grilled octopus at the local taverna by the port right before sunset and sees a young fisherman coming in with his boat, hauling his catch. The fisherman sells fresh fish to the owner of the taverna.

The Greek-American invites him to his table to treat him and starts talking to him. “Pretty impressive catch, have you ever thought of buying another boat?”. The fisherman replies ”no, why?” The Greek-American goes on: “Because, if you buy another boat, you can catch twice as many fish and make twice as much money.” The fisherman asks “then what?”. The Greek-American goes on: “Then you can buy a third and fourth boat, build a very successful business and eventually after many years, retire stinking rich like me and enjoy this wonderful sunset every night while sipping your ouzo.”

The fisherman looks at him: “But sir, I already do this every night.”
I hope Ron enjoys many sunsets in Greece, Italy or wherever he is during his much deserved retirement. He's a class act and someone who left an indelible impression on me from the first time I met him back in 2002 when he gave me a crash course on alpha, beta and hedge funds ("beta is cheap, real alpha is worth paying for").

Below, Ron Mock, president and chief executive officer of Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, discusses the things that keep him awake at night during an interview with Bloomberg's Amanda Lang on "Bloomberg Markets." (April 2019)

You can find a clip of Jo Taylor discussing "who owns Britain" on OTPP's website here. I thank him and Ron for taking the time to talk to me and hope to meet them the next time they're in in Montreal or the next time I'm in Toronto.