People for Pensions Profile: Abhay Abhyankar

Abhay Abhyankar

Abhay Abhyankar works on the investment team at OPTrust, one of Canada's largest defined benefit pension plans.

For starters, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Bangalore, India. I did my undergraduate studies close to home and my plan was to begin my career in India. Shortly before my graduation, however, I bumped into my future wife who just so happened be on her way to Canada to pursue her own education. I took a leap of faith to follow her and it was the best decision I've ever made. Canada was warm and welcoming in every way — despite the weather — and so many experiences I've had here have opened my eyes to how beautiful the world could be if everyone lived like Canadians. Once I got to Canada, I continued my education and eventually found myself working in the financial sector.

Why did you want to work at a pension plan?

What really drew me to working at a pension plan was the feeling that I would be contributing towards the greater good. Working at a purpose-driven organization means everybody you work with cares about the same thing and therefore it makes it so much easier to collaborate and build better things. At a pension plan, that purpose is ensuring our members have a secure retirement.

What was your first exposure to the importance of pensions?

Both my parents have pensions but growing up it never really occurred to me as to why that was important. Today, I see families who do not have pensions, and I know what it means for a family to have the security of a pension in retirement. The impact of having a steady income, the security that it offers, and the ability to focus on other things in your life is enormous.

You work on the investment side of a defined benefit pension plan. Can you tell us about the advantages for members when it comes to investments versus what it would be like to invest for retirement as an individual?

The first benefit is that members of a defined benefit pension plan don't have to manage their own investments — the pension fund does that for them. The scale at which a pension fund can invest is a massive advantage over what you can do as an individual investor. As a pension plan member, you have a very complex, well-designed portfolio that can access many segments of the market like private equity, infrastructure, and real estate, for example, which would be hard to access as an individual.

Another big benefit is that pensions operate with a long-term time horizon and are focused decades into the future. Focusing on the long-term allows us to minimize noise and focus on the one thing that really matters to us, the sustainability of our pension plan, thus aligning us with the interests of our members.

You still have many working years ahead of you before retirement, why is a pension a priority for you today?

Having a pension makes a big difference. I love what I do but at some point, I want to be able to retire and focus on other things. I have immensely benefitted from the many free resources available for learning at various locations of the Toronto Public Library and my dream is to be able to build many more libraries around the world so that people everywhere can benefit from free access to knowledge. Having the financial security and stability of a pension will go a long way in making that dream come true.

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