TRUSTEES: GuideStone initiatives recapped
DALLAS (BP) -- Speaking from an Old Testament passage, Joshua 3:4-5, GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins told trustees, "We are challenging our employees to see 2014 as a 'Year of Transition' as we seize opportunities to enhance the financial security of our participants."
Hawkins' report was part of the March 3-4 meeting of GuideStone trustees in Dallas, during which Chief Operating Officer John R. Jones and executive officers John Raymond and Ron Dugan reported on key facets of services provided by the Southern Baptist entity.
Jones also was honored for 25 years of service to GuideStone during the trustee meeting.
Hawkins, in his remarks to the trustees, said GuideStone "is going places in 2014 that we have never been before as we expand our ministry assignment by making our funds available to members of Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches."
As a focal verse for the Year of Transition, Hawkins underscored Joshua 3:4, which reads "... you have not passed this way before" (NKJV).
Jones updated trustees on GuideStone program areas in investments, retirement, insurance and financial assistance.
"Last year, GuideStone's theme was the 'Year of Performance,' and perform GuideStone did," Jones told trustees. "Total GuideStone assets ended the year at an all-time peak of $12.6 billion."
Jones noted in a recap of GuideStone's investment funds' performance for 2013 that its Value Equity, Growth Equity and Small Cap Equity Funds exceeded the S&P 500 with one-year returns ranging from 34.5 percent to 38.0 percent for the GS4 share class. (Share classes are defined in the prospectus of each fund and largely relate to eligibility of participants and fund size.) Jones said that, while such high returns are not to be expected, they certainly were welcomed. GuideStone's Fixed Income and Specialty funds also performed well in relation to peers, he reported.
According to Lipper Rankings, 10 of 14 GuideStone Funds performed above median over the last decade, although investment strategists note that past performance does not guarantee future results.
"In addition, GuideStone Funds ranked 38th out of 225 mutual fund families in the most recent Fund Family Fiduciary Rankings prepared by fi360," Jones said, adding, "GuideStone Funds have ranked in the top 20 percent of all fund families in the fi360 universe for 12 consecutive quarters ending Dec. 31, 2013." The fo360 report ranks mutual fund families based upon the percentage of their individual funds that pass fi360's due diligence screens that include a fund's track record, assets, management tenure, style consistency, expense ratio, risk adjusted performance and performance relative to their peer group.
Contributions to GuideStone's retirement plans were up 9.4 percent from 2012, Jones reported.
"GuideStone is not only growing through its expanded ministry opportunities but also through its SBC base," Jones told trustees. "Indeed, the net number of active retirement plan participants has increased almost 6 percent over the last four years. And, the average account balance of a GuideStone retirement participant increased a cumulative 46 percent from 2007 to 2013."
Property & casualty
GuideStone's property & casualty program had its greatest year ever in 2013, through what Jones described as its strong relationship with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co., based in Fort Wayne, Ind.
"In 2013, GuideStone was able to close 63 percent of new business and to renew 100 percent of its existing business, resulting in $5.1 million in bound premium," Jones said. "The success in the number of churches and ministries covered and in the total dollar amount of insurance in force bear witness to the strength of that relationship" with Brotherhood Mutual.
Agents with GuideStone Agency Services were named Agent of the Year and Rookie of the Year for Brotherhood Mutual in 2013. Jones attributed the surge of success in P&C program "to the Lord in bringing GuideStone and Brotherhood Mutual together some 21 months ago."
Nearly 1,800 new donors made their first gift to Mission:Dignity during 2013, Jones said in regard to the GuideStone-sponsored avenue of assistance to retired Southern Baptist ministers and widows who face uncertainties as to how they will pay for their basic needs like food and medicine.
"With 2,338 churches participating in Mission:Dignity this past year, that was the highest level of church participation in the history of the program," Jones said.
The Mission:Dignity program provides financial assistance to nearly 2,000 retired ministers or their widows in crucial financial need. Information concerning Mission:Dignity may be requested by calling GuideStone at 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433) or by visiting www.MissionDignitySBC.org.
GuideStone products & new investors
Trustees also heard a report from Jones and executive officers John Raymond and Ron Dugan on expanded access to GuideStone Funds.
"This initiative is the capstone of our long-range strategic plan, GuideStone 100, and is designed to enhance our economies of scale across all GuideStone entities to better enable us to continue to try and enhance the financial security of the pastor at the crossroads," Raymond reported. "The timing of this initiative is perfect because of the recent national recognitions received by GuideStone Funds and the positive peer ranking that have generated interest in GuideStone from many sectors."
Dugan observed that this initiative "will not impede upon GuideStone's principle purpose of maintaining church plans and benefit solutions, and that our core focus as a church-benefits board will remain firmly intact."
Trustees accepted the recommendation of their officers' nominating committee and elected Michael S. Hamlet of South Carolina as chairman and John R. Morris of North Carolina as vice chairman.
At the Monday evening dinner meeting, trustees recognized Chief Operating Officer John R. Jones for the 25th anniversary of his employment with GuideStone. In addition, two trustees were honored as they reached the end of their terms of service: J. Timothy Wilkes of Alabama and Roger D. Phillips of New York.
Timothy E. Head is the executive officer for denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).