DALLAS (BP) — Organizations typically adapt by one of two methods: imitation or innovation, O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, told trustees during their Feb. 27-28 meeting in Dallas.
Citing the need to be innovative to continue to serve GuideStone’s participants well, Hawkins spoke from Nehemiah in the Old Testament on how people of innovation must face up, team up, gird up and look up to achieve their goals.
Underscoring the Southern Baptist entity’s 2017 “Year of Innovation” theme, Hawkins said, “We want to achieve a culture of innovation at GuideStone, so that we are able to meet the needs of our participants today and anticipate the needs of our participants as we seek to honor the Lord by being their lifelong partner in enhancing their financial security.”
Also during their meeting, trustees heard reports from ministry areas and honored eight retiring trustees.
Retirement & investments
Chief Operating Officer John R. Jones reported that organizational assets ended the year at $13.3 billion, continuing the slow recovery from February 2009 after the 2008–09 economic downturn. Assets grew more than $570 million in 2016, despite market volatility, Jones said.
Jones told trustees that GuideStone Funds ranked in the top third of all mutual fund families according to fi360, ranking 79th out of 243 mutual fund families as of Dec. 31, based on a number of criteria, including assets under management, organizational stability, style and asset class consistency, performance relative to peers and expense ratios. Additionally, GuideStone Funds performed well in both Lipper and Morningstar scores, Jones noted.
“This reflects so positively on both the Kingdom and on Southern Baptists,” Jones said, emphasizing that the funds’ Christian screening does not hamper performance for the funds.
“The Extended-Duration Bond Fund is one of our most-recognized funds, ranking No. 1 in its category in the 1-, 5- and 10-year periods in 2016,” Jones reported. The Extended-Duration Bond Fund’s Lipper rankings, based on total return, ranked No. 1 for the 1-year (out of 46 funds), 5-year (out of 38 funds) and 10-year (out of 30 funds) periods in the Corporate Debt Funds: A Rated category for the institutional class as of Dec. 31. For the 3-year period, it ranked 7th out of 44 funds.
Total retirement plan participants — defined as all participants with an account balance — continued to grow in 2016, up to 182,000, Jones said, with retirement contributions up 5.1 percent in 2016 compared to 2015.
GuideStone’s efforts to offer the funds through intermediary platforms accelerated during 2016, when inflows to the funds from the platforms grew to $144 million. Many Southern Baptists and evangelical Christians interested in investing in GuideStone Funds work through financial advisers who are able to access the funds through these platforms.
“This response underscores the early success that we’ve had in opening up our mutual funds to likeminded investors,” Jones said.
Jones told trustees that GuideStone’s staff throughout 2016 worked to aggressively manage costs, reducing expenses in life, disability, dental and health plans by 6 percent, which helped partially offset higher-than-expected claims, especially catastrophic and in-hospital claims. Group Plans enrollment is up 4.6 percent year-over-year, and total medical plans enrollment was positive for the year, Jones said.
In the Property & Casualty program, GuideStone Agency Services had a 98 percent retention rate in 2016, while adding 177 new accounts, Jones reported. The hit rate, which measures the number of new accounts relative to bids, was 73 percent in 2016, significantly higher than the industry average.
Additionally, agents for GuideStone were recognized for their sales success by Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company. “Brotherhood Mutual has been a wonderful partner,” Jones said. “They’re focused on the local church, understanding the challenges that budget and finance committees have.”
Mission:Dignity reported a record year in 2016. Mission:Dignity Sunday drove the largest July on record with 821 new donors and more than $1 million received; 8,400 individuals, churches, Sunday School classes and others gave to Mission:Dignity in 2016, up 20 percent over 2015. Staff processed more than 39,000 gifts during the year and recorded more than 2,400 donors making first-time gifts.
Mission:Dignity ended 2016 with total gifts through all sources exceeding $7.5 million.
Mission:Dignity provides financial assistance to retired Southern Baptist pastors and their widows. The neediest couples, with at least 25 years of paid Southern Baptist ministerial assistance, can receive up to $600 each month in assistance. Gift checks for $250 were mailed to more than 1,700 eligible recipients in early December. Recipients report the gift checks, a tradition since 1945, allow them to buy Christmas gifts, give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions or purchase necessities. One couple wrote to say that thanks to the Christmas check they were able to purchase a new washing machine after their old one unexpectedly broke in late November.
For the first time in more than a decade, there was a small increase in the number of recipients in the ministry. Pastors and others who know a retired Southern Baptist minister or widow in need can refer them to Mission:Dignity by calling 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433) or by visiting MissionDignity.org.
“We continually strive to better uncover individuals and couples who need us to come alongside them and provide some semblance of financial assistance,” Jones said. “We are privileged to have that opportunity.”
In December, the 2017 budget was approved by trustees; it reflected a 10 percent reduction from the 2016 approved budget and was down versus actual expenditures. Within the budget for 2017, management has continued to invest in staff development, as well as positioned GuideStone to invest in growth opportunities while providing quality service for participants.
GuideStone trustees bid farewell to eight trustees whose terms of service have ended. Staff and other trustees expressed gratitude for the tenures of Ronald E. Brown (Ohio), Gerald R. Davidson (Missouri), William R. Dunning (Pennsylvania/South Jersey), J. Wesley George (Arkansas), James W. Hixson (Michigan), Kirk R. Hudson (New Mexico), Shadd G. Kennedy (West Virginia) and G. Bryant Wright Jr. (Georgia). New trustees will be elected at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix in June.
GuideStone’s trustees will meet again in July in Colorado Springs, Colorado.