HOOPP splits investment functions as Keohane appointed to top job

The $35.7 billion Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) will split its chief investment officer function in two following the appointment of Jim Keohane to president and chief executive and the retirement of John Crocker.

Jeff Wendling, former head of public equities, will now look after all equities including private equity and real estate; and head of fixed income and derivatives, David Long, will be responsible for asset liability management (ALM), fixed income and derivatives.

Both will report to Keohane, who will be the chair of the asset allocation committee and the investment risk committee.

Keohane, who was the first person Crocker hired at the fund, says the new structure will capitalise on the strengths of the individuals.

He says there will be more emphasis on ALM and its incorporation into portfolio construction.

HOOPP is one of the only funds in the world that can boast a fully-funded status, and Keohane has led the move to a liability-driven investment strategy.

And while HOOPP is “on the investment path we want to be on” there will be more attention paid to international real estate opportunities.

All of the fund’s assets are managed in-house – the 40-person investment team has averaged returns of 6.28 per cent over the 10-year period to the end of December 2010 – but Keohane says there may be circumstances where the fund outsources.

These include areas such as distressed debt opportunities where the fund doesn’t have the in-house capability, where there is a cost advantage, or if it wants to access an exceptional investor.

After 10 years as president and chief executive, Crocker leaves behind a fund that has been transformed from what Keohane describes as a “pretty sleepy place” 13 years ago, to a progressive, leading-edge fund with about 450 staff today.

“He is always progressive, always thinking about new ways of doing things,” Keohane says of Crocker.

“What drives a lot of what we do is a very clear mission to deliver on a pension promise. There is a clear sense of mission right across the organisation, and that was reflected in the fund being named one of Canada’s 10 most admired corporate cultures in 2010.”

Under Crocker’s tenure the core administration system and the core investment management system were replaced.

“They are both very challenging tasks for a chief executive to take on,” Keohane says. “I’m glad it was done under his watch.”

The new chief executive was appointed after a comprehensive global search.