Daren Smith takes charge at University of Toronto Asset Management

Daren Smith is the new president and chief investment officer of University of Toronto Asset Management, leading a team that oversees close to $6.5 billion in pension and endowment funds for the university.

Smith joined UTAM in 2008 and takes over for Bill Moriarty, who retired earlier this year. His appointment follows a series of changes in recent years at UTAM aimed at reducing investment risk and making the asset manager more accountable to the university.

“UTAM and its staff are valued partners, managing the money that we rely on to help fund our academic mission and our pensions,” President Meric Gertler said. “Daren understands the importance of this role, and has built a strong track record as part of UTAM’s senior team. I want to welcome him to his new job.”

John Switzer, chair of the UTAM board who acted as an interim leader in the months since Moriarty’s retirement, said the fact the new president comes from within the organization is a sign of the strength of the UTAM team assembled over the past five years.

“I am delighted with this appointment and with the selection process,” Switzer said. “It will be a smooth transition.”

Gertler thanked Switzer for his leadership during the transition period and for his work on the selection of UTAM’s new president.

Smith said he looks forward to working closely with the university.

“Our main objective is to continue to generate strong value-added returns,” Smith said. “The only reason for an organization like UTAM to exist is if it can outperform its benchmarks.”

UTAM has made several changes to its approach to investing, he said, that include moving away from specific allocation targets for alternative investments such as hedge funds and private equity, and implementing what he described as a comprehensive system for evaluating investment risk.

UTAM also has worked, he said, to build a strong investment team with expertise in selecting asset managers and portfolio construction.

Changes to the governance structure of UTAM also are designed to bring it closer to the university while remaining as a separate organization.

The five-member board includes President Gertler as well as the university’s chief financial officer, Sheila Brown, a representative from the University of Toronto Faculty Association, an independent director and UTAM’s president. A new investment committee that reports to the university president, and is working closely with UTAM, is co-chaired by Geoffrey Matus and David Denison. There is also a separate pension committee that provides high-level oversight of pension investment policies and procedures.

In his role as president, Smith said he wants to raise awareness and provide more information about UTAM.

Over the past five years UTAM has consistently exceeded the returns of its benchmark portfolio for pension and endowment funds and has outperformed by more than 1.7 per cent per year over that period. “Although we are encouraged by these results, we know that it takes a lot longer than five years to demonstrate a truly successful investment process,” Smith said. “But we believe that we have the governance, team, infrastructure and culture in place to maximize the chances of outperforming in the future.”

(Johnny Guatto photo)
Via U of T News