2016 Knowledge Broker

Keith Ambachtsheer

Keith Ambachtsheer is not your typical investment consultant—and he’ll be the first to say it. The knowledge broker—who is also director emeritus for the International Centre for Pension Management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management—employs the Peter Drucker discipline of translating the best principles and theories in economics, finance, and management into useful and implementable practice. “My work is not about alpha and beta,” he says, “but about exploring ways to integrate thinking that would produce better outcomes. The Centre serves as a consortium to bring the best academics to do this translation of theory into practice.” Ambachtsheer’s been doing just that for more than four decades, establishing himself as an authority in pension design, governance, and investment policy—topics covered in his latest book, The Future of Pension Management. In it, he addresses the global retirement income system in those three dimensions to answer the question of how to turn retirement savings into retirement security.

Ambachtsheer’s role in the development of some of the most sophisticated Canadian retirement systems is already well known. Recently, he rose to the defense of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) against a leading Canadian columnist who criticized its active management strategy. “You declare that investment theory implies ‘active managers cannot consistently beat the market’,” Ambachtsheer penned in a letter. “That is true if all participants have access to all information, and interpret and use that information identically. In the real world, these assumptions do not hold.” He added that CPPIB—and other active investors who can turn macro and micro information into actionable investment decisions—is a “key ingredient of functional capitalism. It is these kind of investors who transform retirement savings into wealth-producing capital.”

Beyond the Great White North, Ambachtsheer serves as a research advisor to Norwegian pension funds focusing on governance issues and conducts studies of the Finnish and Dutch pension systems. His expertise in governance has also led to the creation of a board effectiveness program—a weeklong boot camp for pension board trustees. And if anyone has the skills to whip board members into shape, it’s Ambachtsheer. —Sage Um