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Pensions Conference

National • December 3 - 4, 2020
Virtual Event

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In support of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Lancaster House is moving the 2020 Pensions Conference online. Moving online will broaden the conference's scope, increase access to nationally recognized experts, and engage attendees across Canada.

HRPA Continuing Professional Development

HRPA Continuing Professional Development

The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) has approved Lancaster House as a Continuing Professional Development Partner, guaranteeing that participation in our conferences, workshops and audio conferences will be accepted by the HRPA for CPD credit.

Register today to earn your CPD credits with Lancaster!

In association with: http://www.library.utoronto.ca/cirhr/

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Registration 9:00 AM - 9:15 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:15 AM - 9:30 AM  

Keynote Address

Early Post-pandemic Considerations for Financial Markets

9:30 AM - 9:55 AM

Keynote Speaker

Stephen Poloz
Special Advisor
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
Former Governor of the Bank of Canada


We are eight months into a new economic reality resulting from the pandemic and other social and political forces. In 2020, high unemployment globally, new directions in central banks' monetary policy, a heated U.S. presidential election, and rising social discord not only have dominated news headlines but have all contributed to the current environment of economic uncertainty and dislocation. A central imperative for pension plan governors and fiduciaries has been to assess the risks and potential implications of measures taken by governments and central banks in an attempt to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19 and the potential impact of these measures on their pension plans' long-term sustainability. Stephen Poloz, former Governor of the Bank of Canada, will provide some comments on recent economic changes resulting from the pandemic and will discuss the potential challenges faced by governments and central banks in the current economic environment as well as the potential opportunities for pension plans and other institutional investors. Among other things, Stephen will offer his views on the following:

  • The current state of the Canadian and global economies and the post-pandemic economic outlook.
  • The impact of the pandemic on unemployment and potential government responses.
  • Inflation, deflation, stagflation, and the implications of each for monetary policy, bond, and equity markets and long-term interest rates.
  • The potential for government involvement in the economy (e.g. infrastructure and/or guaranteed minimum income policies) and the likely impact of such interventions on the economy and investors.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Registration 9:00 AM - 9:15 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:15 AM - 9:30 AM  

Panel 1

Turmoil or Turnaround: Global economic outlook and investment options in the wake of COVID-19

9:55 AM - 10:45 AM

Frances Donald
Managing Director, Chief Economist & Head of Macro Strategy
Manulife Asset Management
Hugh O'Reilly
Executive Director
Innovate Cities

Panel Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the global economy into a severe recession, and given the unprecedented nature of the crisis, forecasting future developments has been especially difficult. Given such unfavourable conditions, is there anything pension plans can do to maintain the type of investment returns that ensure plan stability? Should plans bank on a relatively quick economic recovery, or are more active strategies called for? In this session, specialists will discuss the effect of current economic conditions on pension plans and explore investment strategies that may help pension plans weather a turbulent economy.

  • What is the current economic situation — provincially, nationally, globally? How helpful have government stimulus programs been? What challenges are posed by the debt incurred to finance those programs?
  • What economic changes brought on by the pandemic are likely to be long-lasting? For example, will the long-standing trend toward offshore manufacturing be reversed?
  • Has a disconnect developed between the markets — and other major economic indicators — and the "real state" of the economy? Is there any more certainty to economic forecasts now compared to June, when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that the economic outlook was "highly uncertain"? How should pension plans make decisions amidst unprecedented doubt?
  • What investment strategies or mixes have been effective in dealing with the pandemic-induced crisis? Is there something to be learned from the strategies of major plans such as the Canada Pension Plan, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, the federal Public Service Pension Plan, or British Columbia Investments? Did plans with a value bias in their holdings achieve the expected downside protection?
  • Should decisions to invest in certain "alternative" assets, such as real estate, be affected by behavioural changes induced by the pandemic? For example, do widespread work-from-home arrangements make investment in commercial real estate less desirable? What about increases in online shopping and home deliveries? Should these trends affect investment decisions?


10:45 AM - 11:00 AM

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Registration 9:00 AM - 9:15 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:15 AM - 9:30 AM  

Panel 2

Pension Plans and the Pandemic: Lessons learned, future opportunities

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Cynthia Crysler
Pensions Counsel
Cavalluzzo LLP
Ross Gascho
Pensions Counsel
Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP
James Infantino
Pensions and Disability
Insurance Officer

Public Service Alliance of Canada
Jillian Kennedy
Partner, Wealth

Panel Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has created daunting challenges for pension plans on a number of fronts as they dealt with issues including market volatility, transitions to working remotely, and communication with plan members, all while keeping apprised of successive regulatory changes as governments took steps to respond to the crisis. How have pension plans responded to these challenges? What measures have they put in place that proved helpful? Are these changes here to stay? Are there any lessons to be learned from this experience that can improve pension plans? In this session, pension experts will review the implications for pensions going forward, addressing issues such as the following:

  • What measures did defined-benefit (DB) and defined-contribution (DC) plans put in place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and maintain communication with their members? What about measures aimed at streamlining their administrative practices or procedures? Were these measures effective from the point of view of employer plan sponsors and members?
  • Did plans with flexible design appear to withstand the pandemic better than traditional DB or DC plans did? How have plans in other jurisdictions fared? Are there measures that should be considered when designing plans in order to improve their ability to respond to future crises?
  • Are there any permanent regulatory changes that have been or should be made in response to the pandemic? How have economic stimuli and relief measures such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy impacted pension plans? Were there any unforeseen effects of these programs?
  • How is COVID expected to impact on pension plans in the long term?
  • In light of the pandemic, what is the direction of pension plans in the short, medium, and long terms? What will plans do differently moving forward in light of lessons learned from the COVID-19 experience?


12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Registration 9:00 AM - 9:15 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:15 AM - 9:30 AM  

Panel 3

Rethinking Governance: Building back better in a post-pandemic world

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Christopher Brown
President and CEO
LAPP Corporation (Local Authorities Pension Plan)
Kathryn Bush
Pensions Counsel
Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
Wendy Cukier
Academic Director
Diversity Institute
Murray Gold
Pensions Counsel
Koskie Minsky LLP
Anil Verma
Professor Emeritus of Industrial Relations and Human Resources Management
Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Panel Summary

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, pension administrators have a significant opportunity to rethink existing governance models and practices based on their performance throughout this challenging year. In this session, experts will discuss current issues in pension governance and explore possibilities for improving governance going forward, with a focus on the following:

  • What constitutes good governance? What key developments in law, policy, and stakeholder expectations have shaped the evolution of good governance in recent years?
  • What are the essential skills, knowledge, and competencies required of individual board members and of a board as a whole? What soft skills are critically important but often undervalued in appointment processes?
  • Over time, how can boards ensure that they have the skill sets to govern effectively in a continually changing environment? What are examples of best practices for the orientation, training, and continuing education of board members?
  • How does diversity among board members contribute to good governance and better outcomes for plan members? What types of diversity do boards often lack? What steps can plan administrators take to recruit, train, and retain diverse board members?
  • What governance models and practices have most successfully responded to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis? How have plan administrators adapted to address gaps in governance that have been exposed by the pandemic, and what are the implications for the future of pension governance?
  • What trends are emerging in the division and coordination of responsibilities between plan sponsors and plan administrators? What lessons can be learned from recent developments in governance of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), public-sector plans in Alberta, and the new Ontario University Pension Plan (UPP)?


2:00 PM

Friday, December 4, 2020

Registration 11:00 AM - 11:25 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 11:25 AM - 11:30 AM  

Panel 4

Pensions on the Move: Exploring the benefits and challenges of JSPPs, MEPPs, and other pooling models

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Leo de Bever
Nauticol Energy
Marnie Niemi Hood
Vice President, Pension Solutions
CAAT Pension Plan
Barbara Sanders
Associate Professor
Simon Fraser University
Riley St. Jacques
PBI Actuarial Consultants

Panel Summary

As membership in traditional single-employer defined-benefit (DB) plans continues to decline, alternative plan designs with pooling frameworks are receiving increased attention, including jointly sponsored pension plans (JSPPs), multi-employer pension plans (MEPPs), and variations on pooled defined-contribution (DC) plans. At the same time, efforts to improve the sustainability, affordability, and efficiency of pension plans have led to the growth of pooled asset management, including through investment master trusts and investment management corporations. In this session, panelists will assess the merits and drawbacks of the most prominent pooling approaches, addressing the following:

  • What are the most significant benefits and challenges associated with JSPPs, MEPPs, and variations on pooled DC plans? What is the appropriate level of funding for these plans?
  • How do the risk parameters for employers, members, and retirees change under the various pooling approaches?
  • Do any of the pension pooling models increase pension coverage? Do they enhance pension security? Do they simply consolidate smaller plans into larger ones?
  • What are the key advantages of pooled asset management, including investment master trusts and investment management corporations? What are the chief concerns?
  • Is the recent underperformance of the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) — including its multi-billion-dollar losses through a volatility-based investment strategy — a warning sign for plans considering the use of a (voluntary) investment management corporation or other forms of pooled asset management?
  • How is the voluntary, not-for-profit Investment Management Corporation of Ontario (IMCO) faring since it began managing funds for clients in 2017? Does IMCO have expertise that differentiates it? How successful has IMCO been in recruiting new clients? Which organizations should consider joining it?


12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Friday, December 4, 2020

Registration 11:00 AM - 11:25 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 11:25 AM - 11:30 AM  

Panel 5

Pension Plans in the New World of Work: Assessing the impact of disruptive technologies, artificial intelligence, and shifting demographics

1:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Corey Vermey
Director of Pensions and Benefits
Alain Malaket
Chief Executive Officer
Ian Edelist
Principal, Eckler,
and Chief Executive Officer,

Club Vita Canada
Randy Bauslaugh
Pensions Counsel
McCarthy Tétrault LLP

Panel Summary

In many respects, the future of work is now. Demographic shifts and technological innovation are rapidly changing the way businesses operate and the organization of work itself. These megatrends have a direct and lasting effect on pensions — from administration to member engagement to plan design. Seasoned professionals will provide insight into how plans are adapting to and capitalizing on current transformations and explore the possibilities for expanding pension coverage in this new era. Points of discussion include the following:

  • Can advances in disruptive technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) improve pension plan design, administration, investment management, and/or member engagement? If so, how? What are the key challenges and risks involved?
  • What is the impact of demographic changes on future types of retirement savings plans? How are shifting demographics, including the growth of the millennial generation as the largest portion of the workplace, changing pension plan design?
  • Will new and emerging pension models, such as variations on pooled defined-contribution (DC) plans, expand pension coverage for current and future generations of workers, including underrepresented groups? Do these models better respond to the rise of self-employed, freelance workers than traditional plan designs do? Is making enhancements to existing public pension schemes, including the Old Age Security (OAS) program and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), the best option for improving retirement security?


2:30 PM - 2:45 PM

Friday, December 4, 2020

Registration 11:00 AM - 11:25 AM  
Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 11:25 AM - 11:30 AM  

Panel 6

Past Reflections, Future Directions: Concluding insights and open-forum discussion

2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

Ari Kaplan
Lawyer and Mediator
Kaplan Law
Andrea Boctor
Pensions Counsel
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
Laura Brownell
Staff Representative - Pensions
Society of United Professionals
Herb Kunze
University of Guelph Faculty Association
Paul Litner
Employer Counsel
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
Paul Owens
Deputy Superintendent of Pensions
Government of Alberta
Cynthia Rynne
Partner and Senior Consultant
PBI Actuarial Consultants Ltd.

Panel Summary

In this session, the conference co-chairs will offer brief closing reflections on the conference as well as on the past, present, and future of the pension industry. Following these insights, the session will be conducted as an open forum, with facilitators inviting comments and questions from the floor regarding key issues and take-aways from the conference. Attendees will deepen their understanding of the current pension landscape and what lies ahead as they exchange ideas with experts and peers from across Canada.

Conference Ends

4:00 PM

Keynote Speakers


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Conference Sessions

  • This program has been approved by the Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA) for 6.5 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours.