OMERS CEO Revamps Executive Leadership Team

Last week, OMERS announced key changes to its Leadership Team, set to take effect in the coming months. According to a post on Linkedin, these changes are integral to achieving the global growth plans of their business. 

The key shift is Ralph Berg, current Global Head of Infrastructure, will succeed Ken Miner as Global Head of OMERS Capital Markets in April of 2021, upon Miner’s retirement. Also, Annesley Wallace, current Chief Pension Officer, will return to the investment side of the business as Global Head of OMERS Infrastructure. 

Blake Hutcheson, OMERS President & CEO, was nice enough to give me a call late last week to go over important changes they have implemented in six key areas:

  • People: Ensure they have the right people in the right roles globally.
  • Leadership: Promote great leadership at all levels of the organization and ensure they work collaboratively among themselves and key stakeholders
  • Culture: Promote the right culture at all levels based on the right values and stay humble as they strive to achieve top results.
  • Brand, communication, relationships: Protect the OMERS/ Oxford brand globally and act like ambassadors to the brand to strengthen OMERS global reputation, footprint and relationships around the world.
  • Proactive for better future: Think ahead to help achieve the 2025 and 2030 vision and strategy, including taking an active role in how they advance their ESG agenda, drive operational innovation and excellence, and scale their global investment footprint for long term success. 
  • Result oriented: By properly implementing the above, they can collectively achieve the required financial and non-financial results to measure their future success. 

Blake and I focused more on changes to the senior leadership team. He beefed it up to 17 people globally (including him) and still has 7 direct reports. 

The way he described it to me is "it's a bigger, more diverse and experienced team" which will allow OMERS to be better prepared for all complexities around the world as everyone will be exposed to these complexities. "This provides a better feedback loop for both coordinating and evolving every corner of the organization."

He also told me almost half of the senior executive team is now made up of women.

So, the new OMERS Executive Leadership Team now includes (in alphabetical order): 

  1. Monique Allen, EVP, Data and Technology
  2. Bob Aziz, COO
  3. Ralph Berg, the incoming Global Head of OMERS Capital Markets
  4. Celine Chiovitti, SVP, Pensions and Corporate Services
  5. Anca Drexler, Head of Total Portfolio Management
  6. Michael Graham, Head of OMERS Private Equity
  7. Rodney Hill, Chief Risk Officer
  8. Michael Kelly, Chief Legal and Corporate Affairs Officer
  9. Chris Morley, VP, Government Relations
  10. Nancy Nazer, Chief Human Resources Officer
  11. Shelagh Paul, SVP, Global Head of Communications
  12. Satish Rai, CIO
  13.  Michael Rolland, CEO of OMERS Sponsor Corporation
  14. Jonathan Simmons, CFO
  15.  Michael Turner, Head of Oxford Properties
  16. Annesley Wallace, the incoming Global Head of OMERS Infrastructure

Blake told me that "collectively, this refreshed team brings over 415 years of experience across more than 35 companies and 11 industries, representing multiple countries and backgrounds, with an approximate male/female split of 60/40." 

I highlighted Ralph Berg and Annesley Wallace because these are the the most important changes. Ralph Berg will be replacing Ken Miner, who has announced his retirement, effective April 1, 2021 after a "very distinguished career." Ralph Berg will be based in London.

Annesley Wallace, who has been leading the Pensions and Global Communications teams for the last three years, will return to Infrastructure to replace Ralph Berg as the Global Head of that group. She is based in Toronto.

Blake spoke very highly of both all his senior team and said he has the utmost trust in them. 

As far as the two big nominations, he told me "Ralph has a law degree, over 20 years banking experience, spent six years as Head of OMERS Infrastructure, speaks several languages and is an outstanding leader." 

"Annesley was named top 40 under 40 (she's only 39 years old), she has an MBA from York and an Engineering degree from Queen's University. She's super bright and great leader who is returning to Infrastructure investing."

It should be noted, both these people are outstanding leaders and surefire contenders to take over the top job in the future when Blake eventually steps down (not any time soon).

 What else? Blake told me Satish Rai is staying on as CIO and "he's doing a great job". Ralph Berg, Annesley Wallace, Anca Drexler, Michael Graham and Michael Turner will work closely with him.

Also,  Anca Drexler, Michael Graham and Michael Turner will join the OMERS Executive Leadership Team representing their respective large business responsibilities. 

Another key promotion not mentioned above is Michael Block, who will leave his strategy role to join the Capital Markets team as Senior Managing Director, Capital Markets, reporting directly to Ralph Berg. He's another top 40 under 40 (great young talent).

Bob Aziz will expand his responsibilities as Chief Operating Officer, to include the Global Communications and Pensions Teams. Monique Allen, Celine Chiovitti, Chris Morley and Shelagh Paul will join the OMERS Executive Leadership Team reflecting their growing responsibilities.

Jonathan Simmons will take on additional responsibilities as Chief Financial and Strategy Officer to work on strategy and asset liability management (the group is now reporting directly to him).  Blake told me: "Strategy is a natural fit with our Finance, Accounting and Actuarial divisions and this team will be a welcome addition."

Rodney Hill, Nancy Nazer, Michael Kelly and Michael Rolland (for his AC responsibilities) will also be part of this broader leadership team and will continue to report directly Blake.

What else? Blake told me while the transition will begin immediately, the formal effective date for the changes will be April 1, 2021. 

I thank Blake for speaking with me and I can sense he wants to put 2020 to rest and move on with his new OMERS Executive Leadership Team.

Blake also told me he wants to be more transparent (hence why he's reaching out to me when his predecessors laid low), more accountable and more diverse to address the coming challengers OMERS will face.

And it's not just gender and racial diversity, "it's diversity of thought" which they need.

On Real Estate, Michael Turner who heads Oxford Properties, has a seat on the new OMERS Executive Leadership Team and that is great news as they can make better decisions across public and private markets incorporating his insights (he's another contender to run OMERS one day).

Solid leaders, diverse thoughts and their big challenge will be to maintain and improve culture and to build and protect OMERS brand and global footprint to continue delivering great results. 

I wish them all much success and look forward to speaking to Blake again to cover last year's results (they had some lumps but everyone did).

Below, Blake Hutcheson, president and CEO at OMERS discusses the pension fund's investment strategy amid COVID-19, and how OMERS integrates ESG factors into its investment decision-making processes. He also talks about governments and private investors working together and finding projects that both sides want to build and invest in (October, 2020).