Sabeen Purewall: DB pension plans are attainable and necessary

Man on a mission: Sabeen Purewall wants to change the perception of DB pension plans

Sabeen Purewall: DB pension plans are attainable and necessary
Sabeen Purewall, Director, Pension Solutions & Partnerships, CAAT Pension Plan

Sabeen Purewall is on a mission to educate people about the potential of defined benefit (DB) pension plans and how they are attainable for employers, can bring piece of mind to Canadians, and can help communities thrive.

Purewall joined CAAT Pension Plan early in 2022, after more than 20 years in the financial services industry, mostly in the asset servicing sector. “During that time, I worked closely with pension plan sponsors across Canada, but not directly in the pension industry,” he says.

“Over the pandemic, I had the opportunity to moderate a virtual industry session with CAAT CEO and plan manager, Derek Dobson, where I got to hear firsthand about CAAT’s mission, vision, and purpose. I was immediately drawn to CAAT’s purpose of increasing DB coverage across Canada and wanted to be a part of its growth ambitions, so I kept an eye out for opportunities. When an opening for a director, pension solutions, role came up, I knew I had to apply.”

Interestingly, there was only one role available, but CAAT hired two people – Purewall and Haris Sardar, an actuary. Purewall is director, pension solutions and partnerships, and Sardar is director, pension solutions.

“We both ended up getting hired due to the different skill set we brought to the table: Haris with his actuarial designations and background, and me with my relationship building and growth marketing experience. Since then, we’ve formed a great team leveraging our complementary skills.”

Changing the perception

Purewall now lives his passion for DB plans by changing the perception that they are unattainable or too risky for employers. “That’s precisely the problem that CAAT is solving for employers. We offer a predictable retirement outcome for employees while solving the business issue of turnover.

“For organizations, talent attraction and retention continue to be top of mind for leaders, while the introduction of the Pension Protection Act (PPA) might have some rethink their current pension plan arrangements to reduce risks and liabilities and improve access to credit.”

Purewall also wants to make sure all Canadians have a sufficient retirement income. “I want Canadians to know that they can enjoy their retirement and don’t have to worry about making complicated investment decisions in retirement. On an individual level, many of us worry about the rising cost of living, interest rates, and how we’ll be able to make ends meet both today and in retirement. Too many Canadians currently aren’t covered with a workplace pension plan leaving them, and our society as whole, vulnerable.

“Improved retirement security is in the best interest of our country. Every dollar of retirement income puts $1.67 back into the economy, and DB pensions support more than 877,000 jobs across Canada. Pensions help communities thrive by increasing wellbeing, mental health, and volunteerism.”

Help with challenges

Purewall’s enthusiasm about CAAT is that the pension plan “can help with all these challenges we’re facing. A secure pension plan that provides inflation protection and survivor benefits brings piece of mind for employees. It can play a significant role in supporting organizations’ ability to attract and retain talent, while reducing their costs and fiduciary risk, and offering the flexibility they need.”

When asked how he would want to be remembered, he says, “Given what’s going on in the current economic environment, the increase in the cost of living, and the evidence that the vast majority of Canadians are not saving enough for retirement and are at risk of outliving their savings, I would want my professional legacy to be that I helped stabilize the third pillar in Canadian retirement landscape, by helping bring back DB pensions to employers and employees. Sixty percent of Canadians have no retirement arrangement and OAS and CPP just are not enough to support retirement plans.

“The work we do at CAAT helps support the quality of life all Canadians deserve, and we are here to change the course and improve retirement outcomes for all Canadians, no matter where they work and what their role is.”