The Canadian Source Of Employee Pension Fund Investment And Benefits Plan Management

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September 2007

PIAC - The First 30 Years

Canadian pension funds have not always had a national voice. Prior to 1977, there was no organization which brought them together to share views, ideas, and information. That all changed October 19, 1977, when the first meeting of the Pension Investment Association of Canada (PIAC) took place. The fledgling association numbered 33 members for the first session. The membership criteria of the day required that member funds manage a minimum of $50 million in assets. Only the senior investment officer could represent the fund on the association.

Fast forward to 2007. The organization celebrates its 30th anniversary with a membership of more than 135 funds represented by more than 200 senior investment people and holding assets in excess of $890 billion. The national voice has broadened its mission and now promotes sound investment practices and good governance for the benefit of pension plan sponsors and their beneficiaries.

PIAC

The Early Years: 1977 — 1991

The essence of PIAC was first expressed in a spring 1977 meeting which led to the founding of the association. The vision of PIAC’s founders – the late Dennis McGee; Terry Staples, PIAC’s first president; the late Jim Marshall; David MacMahon; the late Dennis Beggs; and the late Chuck Harvie – was to create an association which would be “productive only due to the commitment of its membership.” Today, that commitment to volunteerism, coupled with the mutual help commitment of its members, is PIAC’s strength and makes it the successful organization it has become.

From 1977 through 1991, the business of PIAC was conducted entirely by its board of directors. The board met monthly and directors contributed an extraordinary amount of time to the association’s affairs. In this period, the structure provided for as many as eight officers. In 1982, this was changed to the present structure of four.

In 1991, under then-Chairman Peter Hellyer, its current committee structure was established. Committees were formed to address investment practices, corporate governance, government relations, and member services. That same year, PIAC’s newsletter, Communiqué, was launched.

The Momentum Gathers: 1991 — 2000

During the last decade of the 21st Century, the organization gathered steam. Under Chairman David French, PIAC’s first strategic plan was adopted in 1993. With the mission, “promoting the financial security of pension fund beneficiaries through sound investment policy and practices,” the association moved forward from that point confirming the beliefs of its founders and clearly focusing on its mandate.

The strategic plan altered PIAC’s governance with the establishment of annual tactical planning sessions to review and renew the plan and provide specific objectives for the forthcoming year.

PIAC’s work is now in the hands of more than 50 volunteers active in committees and the board. That represents more than 30 per cent of its membership.

PIAC conferences are another important element to achieve its mission. Since the very beginning, they have been the embodiment of the self-help philosophy within PIAC. Members share experiences through networking, candid discussion, and mutual support.

That same philosophy is also evident in the annual asset survey, in other informational and opinion surveys, or through the use of PIAC’s office as a focal point for contact. Members share information freely for their mutual benefit. Committee activities also exemplify this philosophy where volunteers devote time and interest to projects for the benefit of all members.

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