Caisse planning fund of up to $2 billion focused on ‘disruptive technologies’

The Jacques-Parizeau Building in Montreal, where the Caisse has offices. Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec

Quebec’s largest pension fund plans to create a new technology portfolio that will invest between $1 billion to $2 billion in companies with innovative business models, according to a job posting from the firm. 

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) is hiring a Montreal-based portfolio manager of “disruptive technologies” to lead the fund. The manager will also be responsible for building a “Disruptive Technologies strategy” for the pension fund’s more than $309.5-billion portfolio. That includes examining its stakes in publicly traded companies and challenging “existing Equity Markets positions that might be at risk from disruptive models.”

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Talking Point

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec is planning a fund of up to $2 billion focused on “disruptive technologies.” The new fund comes as CDPQ is increasing its exposure to the tech sector, and as other major Canadian pension firms like the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System are making more investments in the space.

CDPQ’s new fund will “complement the Equities Markets group’s existing offerings by primarily targeting companies below $5 [billion],” according to a job description for the role. 

The manager will “invest in the securities of public and pre-IPO companies that have the potential to become tomorrow’s leaders, and which could eventually transition into our global large-cap portfolios,” according to the posting. 

CDPQ is also hiring a “disruptive technologies” analyst whose responsibilities will include monitoring the financial results of companies in which the new fund invests. 

The portfolio manager will be responsible for helping CDPQ hire external managers to invest in disruptive technologies. They will also be tasked with coming up with a CDPQ-wide strategy for dealing with disruption while upgrading the whole firm’s “level of understanding of issues related to business models that are being disrupted.” 

CDPQ declined to answer questions about the new fund, including its launch date and whether it will focus on particular types of technology companies or specific regions of the world. 

“It is not our practice to comment publicly on our investment strategies or to telegraph our specific intentions to the market,” said Yann Langlais Plante, a spokesperson for CDPQ. “Like many long-term investors, we are interested in disruptive technologies because of the impact they can have on business models and the economy.”

Michael Sabia, president and CEO of CDPQ, listed developing such capabilities as a priority in the company’s 2018 annual report

“We are developing internal expertise on disruptive technology, not only to better understand the impact of coming changes on our portfolio, but also to act on the investment opportunities they will provide,” wrote Sabia. 

The new fund will be part of CDPQ’s equity-markets division, which, as of Dec. 31, 2018, had $108.3 billion in assets under management, 11.6 per cent of which is invested in information-technology companies. The new manager will report to Helen Beck, senior vice-president and head of equity markets.

The job posting suggests that the candidate will be focused on more than just Quebec. Requirements include a willingness to travel 20 to 30 per cent of the time to meet investment targets and “excellent knowledge” of English. French knowledge is listed as an asset.

CDPQ is also looking for someone with a “well-developed network in the tech community, both with industry specialists and investors (i.e. Private equity, growth equity, VC).”

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CDPQ has increased its exposure to the tech space recently. In March, the firm announced a $250-million fund focused on artificial intelligence. Since then, CDPQ has made four investments in tech firms across its portfolio. In May, it led a $260-million round in U.K.-based solar-energy company Lightsource BP. In July, it participated in a $51-million round in Montreal-based AlayaCare, which makes cloud software for home care agencies. 

CDPQ’s new fund comes as other major Canadian pension firms are increasingly focusing on technology investments. In December 2018, The Logic reported that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was looking to invest between $500 million and $1 billion in venture capital funds. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System have since established new departments focused on investing in innovative firms; neither specified how much they are looking to invest.