The 2013 Pension 40: Keith Ambachtsheer

Keith Ambachtsheer
Director, Rotman International Center for Pension Management
University of Toronto

When U.S. policymakers think about pension reform — and what it takes to operate a healthy pension system — they often look to their Canadian counterparts. Few Canucks know more about pensions than Keith Ambachtsheer, director of the Rotman International Center for Pension Management at the University of Toronto. Ambachtsheer’s pioneering work helped the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan to transform itself in 1987 by revamping its governance principles, hiring an independent board with competitive pay and investing on the open market. Today C$129.5 billion ($130 billion) OTPP is 97 percent funded and one of the world’s best-performing retirement funds, having posted 10 percent average annual returns since 1990. As inspiration for his efforts, Netherlands native Ambachtsheer cites legendary management consultant Peter Drucker’s 1976 book, The Unseen Revolution:  How Pension Fund Socialism Came to America, which championed pension formulas that function regardless of changing market environments. Ambachtsheer, 71, who holds a master’s in economics from the University of  Western Ontario, launched several businesses and think tanks that applied Drucker’s practical management theory to the pension problem. “These ideas were untilled soil at the time, in the 1980s,” he says. “Now they’re mainstream.” In 2004, Ambachtsheer co-founded the ICPM, where pension practitioners and experts exchange ideas through debates and conferences and turn them into practice.

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