CPBI Forum asks big questions, highlights big opportunities

Annual event sees hundreds of plan sponsors join in person and online to learn, network, and engage

CPBI Forum asks big questions, highlights big opportunities

The Canadian Pension and Benefits Institute (CPBI) Forum 2024 concluded on Wednesday, having brought together over three hundred in-person attendees to the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa. Another 225 industry professionals joined the event online in its hybrid format. The three-day event covered an incredibly broad range of topics in its various panel discussions and plenary sessions, while taking time for reflection and connection.

The theme of the event was “what really matters” and it offered an intentionally open platform for discussions and the exchange of ideas. Over the event’s 27 sessions topics professionals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives weighed in on the myriad topics that impact plan sponsors every day.

“We launched our new strategic plan for 2024-2026 setting the big strategic direction, so for us what really matters is to be pertinent,” said Caroline Tison, CEO of the Canadian Pension & Benefits Institute. “We have a value proposition that resonates with this sector. We want to make sure we’re one of the first players people think of when they want to learn something new, meet someone new, and see what’s happening with the new trends. It’s making sure that whatever we’re doing really resonates with people.”

The event’s keynote speakers, Chief Clarence Louie and Kate Madden demonstrated the sheer breadth of topics discussed over the three day event. Chief Louie shared insights and experiences leading the Osoyoos Indian Band as a business-oriented leader, fostering entrepreneurship and job creation within his community. Kate Madden discussed her journey as a trans woman, how her transition brought her from fear to freedom. From entrepreneurship to gender affirmation, the topics discussed truly reflected how broad the scope of plan sponsors’ work has become.

There were 27 panel discussions held during the event. Among the highlights were investment strategy discussions with pension plan Chief Investment Officers and public equity managers. Experts discussed the impact of oncology in the workplace and Dr. Sandra Primiano from Homewood Health outlined strategies to address substance abuse in the workplace.

Pension litigations, data analytics, GenAI, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, the event covered a dizzying array of topics and saw meaningful engagement with attendees in the Q&A sessions.

“I have been with the CPBI for decades and the reason I stick with it is it’s a comprehensive organization,” said Blair F. Richards, CIO of The Halifax Port ILA/HEA. “It’s not just one thing. It’s pensions, its benefits, its investments, its general HR stuff. It offers a one stop shop. The networking is fantastic and the agenda is good, that’s what keeps me coming back.”

Reflecting on the panel topics and discussions, Caroline Tison highlighted how much diversity, equity, and inclusion was discussed by so many different subject matter experts. AI, too, was a recurring theme across areas of focus.

The event wasn’t all serious discussion and weighty topics. The organizers set aside time for fun. The event included an Ottawa river cruise, a foosball tournament, and masquerade gala with performances by young opera singers from the University of Ottawa.

The CPBI Forum also hosted the organization’s annual general meeting, where Tracy Young-McLean was named Chair of the National Board of Directors of CPBI. Young-McLean is the VP of Human Resources and Corporate Services at Saskatchewan-based charter airline firm Rise Air.

“We want to keep things on an event keel,” Young-McLean said when asked about her new responsibilities as Chair. “We have some internal initiatives that we need to get finished and we will keep paying attention to what our membership needs… I think we provide a quality education and networking event, second to none.”

Caroline Tison echoed Young-McLean’s view of the event, encouraging even more plan sponsors and industry stakeholders to attend next year’s Forum in Vancouver.

“This is really an opportunity for plan sponsors to be at the forefront of the industry,” Tison says. “They can prevent, plan, predict, and try to be ahead of the game. This event is an opportunity to learn that and do that in a safe and inclusive environment.”