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A conversation with Ontario Teachers' Millan Mulraine

Chief Economist speaks about Black History Month, workplace progress and why he chose Ontario Teachers’

If you told a younger version of Ontario Teachers' Chief Economist Millan Mulraine what his career path would look like, he wouldn't have believed you.

Having grown up in the Caribbean, Mulraine was the son of farmers who didn't have the luxury to pursue higher education. In fact, his mom couldn't read or write; his dad barely so.

Despite his humble circumstances, from a young age Mulraine had aspirations of being a doctor. What he later realized though, is that there is more than one way to contribute to a greater purpose.

In honor of Black History Month, Mulraine sat down with colleague Gayane Ordukhanyan, Principal in Total Fund Management and co-leader of the Multicultural Employee Resource Group, to talk about how he has found that purpose at Ontario Teachers'— both through his career and his longstanding desire to make an impact.

(Discussion has been edited for length and clarity.)

Gayane Ordukhanyan: Tell us a bit about your time at Ontario Teachers'? How did you come to join the company?

Millan Mulraine: I'm going into my seventh year. I'm amazed at the length of tenure here. The average is probably about 10 years, and it certainly speaks to the strength of the organization. The commitment and engagement of employees came across to me very strongly during the interview process.

The people I got to meet during interviews were really smart and really on top of their game, but also quite humble—and that really appealed to me. That brought me here as a Chief Economist.


GO: Stepping back, how did you get into economics?

MM: Growing up, I wanted to be a medical doctor, to help people. Then in grade 10 or 11, I met an economics teacher and just the way he explained economics and the passion that he brought — I said I wanted to be an economist.

It was around that time that I was introduced to a West Indian economist, Sir W. Arthur Lewis, who was the first Black economist and the first Black person to win a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Having discovered that, it just accelerated my intrigue in it.

After my masters, I worked in international development and that changed the trajectory of what kind of economics I wanted to do. I wanted to do macroeconomics and after my PhD I was on track.

GO: You're also very involved with the Multicultural ERG, which we work on together.

MM: That really excites me. I get much satisfaction from that, because part of what that entails is ensuring that, as an organization, we can embrace and celebrate our differences.

I was drawn here in part by the purpose and the people of the organization. I've been enthralled by the journey that the organization has been on as it relates to culture and impact

“At the end of the day, a corporation is made up of people. And as people, we can ask ourselves, What can I do to make everyone have a better day today than yesterday?”

GO: What do you love most about working here?

MM: It comes down to the people and the purpose. There certainly is a lot of good you can do in finance. Here at Ontario Teachers', we're paying pensions for teachers. Which is, I think, one of the greatest purposes that we can have, and we ensure that we stick to that commitment in perpetuity.

That purpose resonates, because I've been influenced by teachers. Everyone in some way has been impacted and influenced positively by a teacher. Being part of securing that nest egg for teachers is a really beautiful thought.

And we do it while being at the front end of the market, the front end of investments.


GO: What is one piece of advice you would give to young people who are just starting in their careers?

MM: Ask yourself: What is your true purpose? What do you want to do, and how can you work towards that? Every day, what's the next step that you need to take? The journey is 1,000 miles, but it starts with one step.

GO: Let's talk about the importance of February. What does Black History Month mean to you?

MM: For me, it's one of the most important times of the year. I came as an immigrant from the Caribbean. I am a product of slavery. I think part of that legacy lives on in me, and will live on in my children and descendants.

So why does this mean so much to me? We've had wrongs in history, and we've tried really hard to make them right. Part of what [Black History Month] does is to show that within the Black community — notwithstanding people's views on whether there is an institutional impediment to Black success — there are people that have been able to lift themselves up by the bootstraps and succeed. They've made great accomplishments.

I'm inspired every day by that. I am inspired by knowing that people have had to work extra hard to lift themselves up out of that and to erase that legacy.

GO: Why do you think we, as an organization, really need to care about this? And are there any practical steps that we can take?

MM: I'm really encouraged that today, there is an ethos to make this organization equitable —so people can feel that they're included, that their voices are heard, and that regardless of their background, regardless of their experience, regardless of what they look like, regardless of their sexual orientation, they will be valued for what they're going to bring to the table.

I really do believe that Ontario Teachers' is on an amazing journey and we've made great strides. My heart swells with pride knowing that I'm working for an organization that puts people first and that puts people of all walks of life first.

At the end of the day, a corporation is made up of people. And as people, we can ask ourselves, "What can I do to make everyone have a better day today than yesterday?" As managers we can ask, "What can I do to guide and make employees feel that they can bring their best self to the organization every day?" If everyone does that, we're going to do just fine — and in fact, we're going to do great as an organization.


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