Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named former Ontario pension-fund giant CEO Jim Leech as special adviser to Canada’s newly authorized, but still unlaunched, federal infrastructure bank. He will design and roll out the Liberal government’s planned bank, set to pump up to $26.7 billion in public and private funds into infrastructure across the country. Former CEO of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan until he retired in 2014, Leech has extensive experience managing infrastructure and other investments by one of the world’s largest pension funds.
As head of the fund’s private investment arm, Leech oversaw a portfolio that jumped from $1.5 billion in 2001 to $15.2 billion six years later. Infrastructure investments include deals for shipping-container terminals in the ports of Vancouver, B.C., and New York City. The fund’s move into infrastructure investment in 2001 was seen as pioneering in the sector, Leech said in a recent interview. The pension fund last year won a $2.4-billion bidding war against Chinese and other Canadian investors for London City Airport, which owns five airports across Europe, according to The Financial Times. “We are the first pension plan that bought an operating real estate company [and] the first pension plan that got into infrastructure,” Leech said.
The federal government plans to contribute $11.4 billion of the infrastructure bank’s planned $26.7-billion investment pool, with the rest set to come from private investors. Details of bank operations will be outlined in the federal budget, anticipated in March. The bank also is expected to push for more greenfield infrastructure investment, based on Leech’s comments to media.