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InBC Crown corp. taps Telus alum to lead investment decisions on $500m fund

Chief investment officer not to have contact with board, government, to mitigate perceptions of interference
Leah Nguyen takes over as InBC's first chief investment officer in April | Credit: Telus

The new InBC Crown corporation is cementing its leadership ranks, appointing a former investment director at Telus Corp. (TSX:T) to guide decisions on the government’s own $500-million investment fund.

Before getting the nod as InBC Investment Corp.’s first-ever chief investment officer, Leah Nguyen served as investment director for the $100-million Telus Pollinator Fund for Good. The Vancouver-based telecom giant’s fund invests in startups focused on social and environmental change.

Nguyen, who takes on the new role beginning April 4, joins Jill Earthy who was recently appointed as InBC’s first CEO.

The $500-million fund has come under criticism for its lack of transparency.

Information Commissioner Michael McEvoy took aim at it last May for not being subject to the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Instead, the Crown corporation faces annual reporting in addition to staggered independent audits.

“Its annual reports are to be in a form and manner specified by the minister and external reviews will occur only every five years,” McEvoy said at the time.

“These accountability mechanisms fall far short of what is needed and lack the ongoing transparency afforded through the access to information regime.”

Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s minister for jobs, economic recovery and innovation, told BIV late last year that making InBC subject to FIPPA would have a “chilling effect” on the fund.

“We feel confident that there's enough public transparency there to ensure that both the public get the information they need as well the fund is able to have success,” he said in December, when Earthy was hired as CEO.

Kahlon noted the fund’s predecessor corporation, the B.C. Immigrant Investment Fund Ltd., was not subject to FIPPA.

“That's the very reason why the previous government – the BC Liberals – when they created the immigrant investor fund, they also precluded the FOI [freedom of information] rules because that was the feedback they had gotten at the time,” he said. 

“We have also gotten similar feedback and we want to make sure that we built in the public transparency so the public could see what the fund was doing, but also see good investment deals come forward.”

Nguyen is not to have contact with Kahlon or anyone else in government. And she is also not to have contact with InBC’s board, which includes deputy finance minister Heather Wood and former BC NDP finance minister Carole James.

“That gives, I think, the private sector some confidence that the decision-making is being made independently and gives confidence for investments to be made alongside of it,” Kahlon said.

The fund’s mandate includes securing financial returns on investments, investing in what the government describes as the low-carbon economy, and investments that result in job creation, the promotion of diversity and further reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

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