A Once-Sleepy Pension Fund Wakes Up

The C$6 billion Saskatchewan teachers’ fund has a new CIO and ambitious plans.

Illustration by II

Illustration by II

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation is building an investment team to run its growing C$6 billion ($4.5 billion) portfolio, which is expected to double in size within 10 years.

Chief investment officer Alison Gould joined last September with the mandate to elevate performance and diversify holdings. For the second time in her career, she’s putting together a team and portfolio from the ground up. Gould spent decades at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, rising from treasury operations analyst to CIO of the $16 billion fund, her LinkedIn profile shows.

She is in the process of interviewing candidates to lead public markets, private markets, and risk/analytics at STF, Gould told Institutional Investor in a phone interview earlier this month.

After the core team is in place, she said, they will turn to revamping the “very traditional” portfolio. “I’m looking to build out the infrastructure program, an alternative credit platform, perhaps bring some assets in-house — that’s all about cutting fees,” Gould said.

Canadian public pension funds frequently manage assets internally, and building this capability has been a priority of STF leadership.

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“Recruiting qualified staff with professional expertise in this area is more cost effective over the long term than continuing to employ third-party consultants and costly asset managers,” executive director Randy Schmaltz and president Patrick Maze wrote in a column last April.

Gould acknowledged the potential challenges of attracting talented investment professionals to the prairie city, which has a population of about 250,000 and an average low temperature of arond -19 °C (-2 °F) in January.

“To be perfectly honest, we’re based in Saskatoon,” said Gould. She previously lived in temperate Vancouver, B.C., but left for the chance to turn around STF. “This is a unique opportunity to make a difference — it’s up to you how you build it.”