New CEO takes the helm of retirement fund

January 13, 2015
Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor
Rod Matheson took over as CEO of the Alberta Teachers' Retirement Fund in November

Rod Matheson moves from government to the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund

Rod Matheson is no stranger to crisis situations, but he isn’t expecting to encounter any of those in his new job.

The 53-year-old is the new CEO of the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF), taking over in November for Emilian Groch, who retired after more than 20 years as ATRF’s leader.

"I’m very fortunate because I’m stepping into a very well-run organization. There are no looming issues on the horizon," Matheson said. "The challenge is to continue the momentum and to build on the success we’ve had."

G-man

Matheson comes to ATRF after spending his entire 30-year career with the provincial government’s finance department. Over the years he moved throughout the department, eventually sampling every aspect of it. His most recent title was assistant deputy minister.

Born in Calgary, Matheson grew up mostly in Sherwood Park. As a youth he worked in the family business, Sherwood Park Agencies, which provided insight into the world of business.

"I worked pretty darn hard. That’s the nature of a family business, just do what needs to get done," he said.

Matheson’s interest in business led him to a bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Alberta. He continued to pad his credentials while working for the government, earning an MBA and designations as a certified management accountant and a chartered financial analyst.

The work ethic fostered by working in the family business came in handy throughout Matheson’s government career, but one particular crisis stands out as memorable for him. After floods ravaged southern Alberta in the summer of 2013, Matheson was part of a small team engaged to create a relief program.

In less than a week, government employees created a program to provide preloaded credit cards to flood victims. The program distributed $65 million to more than 50,000 people.

"I still think back about those people and what heroes they were," Matheson said of the civil servants working in finance and human services who were involved in relief efforts behind the scenes.

In order to oversee the creation and rollout of the program, Matheson was hunkered down for 12 to 16 hours a day in a makeshift war room (really a boardroom in a downtown Edmonton office tower).

"I was in that war room probably for a week solid," he said.

Growth plan

Matheson is stepping into an organization whose assets grew from $800 million to $10.7 billion in the past 20 years. These assets are projected to grow to $15 billion in four years and $25 billion in 10 years.

This growth has been achieved partly through expansion beyond traditional investments like stocks and bonds into asset classes like real estate, infrastructure and private equity. This approach, which has become the norm throughout the pension sector, has seen the number of ATRF employees grow from 38 to nearly 70 in the last four years.

This structure and approach will continue to serve the organization well, with only minor streamlining and refining required, Matheson said.

"It won’t be a revolution; it will be an evolution," he said.

The ATRF’s hunt for a new CEO began more than a year ago, said Greg Meeker, chair of the ATRF board.

Having held numerous positions in government, Matheson brings a solid investment background and a great deal of experience providing service to members — the two main functions of the ATRF, Meeker said.

Matheson is also very calm and analytical, just the type of person needed to move the organization forward to face its challenges.

"He has lots of great experience and qualities that make him right for the job," Meeker said. "We’re just so excited to have him on board. We’re looking forward to the future." ❚