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. Ambachtsheers 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 worlds 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 Druckers 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 masters in economics from the University of Western Ontario, launched several businesses and think tanks that applied Druckers practical management theory to the pension problem. These ideas were untilled soil at the time, in the 1980s, he says. Now theyre 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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