Skip to content

A conversation with our Chief Investment Officers

New CIOs speak about their new roles and opportunities they see ahead

In January 2024, Ontario Teachers’ announced the appointment of Gillian Brown and Stephen McLennan as Chief Investment Officers (CIOs). Gillian and Stephen are the fifth and sixth CIOs in the plan’s history, and this marks the first time CIO accountabilities have been split between two individuals. Below Gillian and Stephen talk about their careers at Ontario Teachers’, their new roles and opportunities they see ahead.

Tell us a bit about your careers at Ontario Teachers’ and how your paths have intersected.

Gillian Brown

Gillian Brown: I joined Ontario Teachers’ in 1995 with a role on the trading floor.  Since that time, I have worked in multiple departments which has allowed for exposure to many areas of our Investments division including credit, insurance linked securities and equity products, and derivative strategies and trading.

I have worked alongside Stephen for more than 20 years, but most consistently since 2018 when he took over the Total Fund Management (TFM) team and I took responsibility for Capital Markets to oversee active risk taking in the credit and absolute return asset classes, as well as a centralized trading function. We built a strong partnership, and I am looking forward to extending that partnership in our new roles.

Stephen McLennan

Stephen McLennan: Like Gillian, I have worn many hats during my time at Ontario Teachers’. I joined the organization in 2003 as part of the credit team, where I spent almost a decade, which included the tumultuous Global Financial Crisis. From there, I helped establish a Natural Resource investment team before being appointed to lead TFM, with a mandate focused on asset allocation, treasury, economics and sustainable investing. 

Last September, I was appointed as the Acting Head of Investments following the departure of former CIO and longtime colleague Ziad Hindo, which has made for a smooth transition into this new role that I am thrilled to be taking on in partnership with Gillian.

Could you talk a bit about the new multi-CIOs model?

Stephen: I believe our new model with shared accountability at the top of the Investments division better aligns to a more complex business environment and positions us well for the future. Having accountabilities spread out between us not only provides people development opportunities within our team, but also positions us to have improved agility in the execution of our investment plan and sharpen our capital allocation.

My mandate includes setting our overall asset allocation and determining the optimal weighting by asset class, sector, and region. I will continue to oversee TFM and take on new accountabilities for our global investment teams in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Gillian: I am leading our active strategies across public and private markets, which includes our Equities, Infrastructure & Natural Resources, Teachers’ Venture Growth, Capital Markets and Real Estate investment departments.

Within the new model, our roles are clearly defined and distinct from one another, which will allow us to bring greater breadth and depth of thinking and improved execution. At the same time, we will run things in close partnership and collaborate as “one team”.

What are the key trends you are noticing in markets right now and how are you responding?

Stephen: What we are seeing is a more complex investment landscape. Increased urgency around sustainability, the politicization of the marketplace, the end of hyper-globalization and rapidly evolving technology like artificial intelligence (AI) are some of the themes we are watching most closely now and integrating into our activities and management of our portfolio.

We have benefitted over the last 30 years from tailwinds that have been beneficial for institutional portfolios, Ontario Teachers’ included. With inflation above long-term averages and a higher cost of capital expected to persist for some time, many of those tailwinds are not expected to have the same benefits moving forward. 

Being a long-term investor is an advantage in challenging markets. We have built our portfolio to be resilient across many different economic environments. But that does not mean we will stand still. Among the key areas of focus for us today are optimizing and creating value in the portfolio, managing liquidity, and integrating and capitalizing on our new, in-house real estate investment department.

Where are some of the opportunities you are most excited about investing in?

Gillian: We are continuing to pursue a few thematic opportunities that have been of interest for some time while also evolving our thinking to incorporate emerging trends. In terms of our continued pursuits, climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy is certainly an area with some interesting and attractive investment opportunities. Renewable energy, batteries, green hydrogen, the power grid and opportunities to decarbonize carbon-intensive companies are just a few examples of areas we would look at. 

AI also presents some interesting opportunities for the Investment division – such as investing in cutting-edge companies or using it to increase the productivity of our teams. It also represents a potential threat to our portfolio companies that do not adapt and learn to use it. Ontario Teachers’ is taking a cross-fund approach to identifying AI use cases, running experiments and working with leaders to best leverage technology for improved business results.

Digitization, healthcare, private credit and life sciences are other evolving areas that we believe will bring compelling investment opportunities going forward.