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Building a Bold Pension Fund

With net assets of almost $22 billion, OPTrust invests and manages one of Canada's largest pension funds and administers the OPSEU Pension Plan a defined benefit plan with over 96,000 members and retirees.

The Challenge

This was the third CEO in less than 8 years, direction was waning, the moral was poor, and results needed attention. A new organization was required. Yet considering the history radical thinking was necessary to translate purpose and bold strategies into action, weaving it into the fiber of the culture.

The Work:  The Nxk Difference

At the beginning we worked with the new CEO and then the Executive team in defining a “business as unusual business plan”. We helped them, “turn over the rocks and address the squiggly things”, develop the processes and the capabilities to have the tough conversations surfacing assumptions and undiscussables.


We conducted a series of candid interviews with the top senior leaders to capture a snapshot of the organization today and the underlying issues at play. We used this data in designing and facilitating a Leadership Retreat, often referred to as “a very different kind of meeting”. The purpose of the offsite was to ultimately engage and develop a commitment to the business plan. Concerns and difficult issues that had previously been considered to be “undiscussable” were addressed, team members were able to be direct and honest with each other in a way that clarified expectations and set commitments in place. The offsite also worked to further break down silos and barriers that may have existed. Commitment to a new vision was collectively defined as well as concrete next steps.


We began an intensive leadership and team coaching process and designed and facilitated ongoing leadership and cross functional team meetings.

In addition, we continued to work over the next 2 years focused on the critical processes that paid attention to achieving the pension promise in a cultural/business transformation process: Purpose/Passion, Processes, People, Performance. This included teaming and engagement strategies across and within teams, growing talent at all levels, and building strategic capabilities including mindset shifts, intelligent risk taking, discipline to reflect, be curious and ask the strategic and tough questions.



There has been significant work done in a very short time… shattering the message that culture change takes many years. The results were dramatic. Within months of our work, both qualitative and quantitative measures of individual and team effectiveness began to soar. This translated into results more broadly.

We are proud that we have played a part in the organization’s incredible success –innovative product and pension member  expansion, enhanced investment capabilities by establishing internal trading, focus on climate change investments, attraction and retention of great talent, superior member service delivery ratings and a fundamental shift in morale and culture. “People loved coming to work.”

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