GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins told trustees during their meeting in Dallas that the organization is challenging its employees to make 2015 a “year of efficiency.”
Trustees also heard reports from chief operating Officer John R. Jones and from the executive officers of GuideStone. Jones updated trustees on the program areas of GuideStone, including investments, retirement, financial assistance and development initiatives.
In remarks to trustees, Hawkins drew from Joshua 6:1-10, which tells of the Israelites’ conquest of Jericho, to emphasize that the people of Israel were given three primary tasks by God during their march around Jericho: watch, be perceptive; walk, be persistent; wait, be patient.
“Sometimes, people want to use effectiveness and efficiency interchangeably,” Hawkins said during the March 2-3 meeting. “In fact, they are different. Effectiveness is important; it speaks to the ability to achieve our objectives. But efficiency is different; it speaks to the ability to achieve our objectives with minimal time and resources. We want to be effective in our work amid all the new opportunities we have at our doorstep, but we must be efficient with the resources we have.”
Jones told trustees, “We wrapped up a phenomenal year in 2014. Total GuideStone assets ended the year at another all-time peak of $13 billion.”
Jones said 2014 was a challenging year for actively managed investments, like those offered by GuideStone Funds, but ratings agencies continued to give GuideStone high marks. Ratings firm fi360 ranked GuideStone Funds 46 of 241 mutual fund families, putting it in the top 20 percent of all mutual fund companies for the 16th straight quarter – four consecutive years. By comparison, only six other mutual fund companies have been able to achieve that level of recognition.
Additionally, Jones reminded trustees that 2014 marked the third year that GuideStone was honored by the Lipper Fund Awards. GuideStone Funds was honored in 2012, ranked No. 1 out of 182 fund families with assets up to $40 billion as the Best Overall Small Fund Group in the U.S., for its performance over the three-year period ending Nov. 30, 2011. In 2013, the MyDestination 2025 Fund was ranked No. 1 out of 92 similar funds for its performance over the three-year period ending Nov. 30, 2012. In 2014, the Extended-Duration Bond Fund was ranked No. 1 out of more than 50 eligible funds as it was honored as the Best Fund Over 3 Years and the Best Fund Over 5 Years in the Corporate Debt A-Rated Funds category for its performance ending Nov. 30, 2013.
Moving to GuideStone’s retirement business, Jones said retirement contributions were up 10.7 percent from 2013.
“The expanded ministry opportunity set continues to fuel the majority of our growth,” Jones said, “but we continue to see significant growth in our Southern Baptist business, as well.”
Total participation in the retirement plan was up 3.5 percent from 2013.
Property and casualty
GuideStone Property and Casualty, in partnership with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company for the fourth year, continues to provide churches and ministries with property and casualty coverage. Jones reported a new bound premium of $3.9 million and $11.4 million in renewal business. GuideStone renewed nearly 100 percent of its existing business and had a close rate of 47 percent of new business.
“The close rate reflects a much higher close rate or win ratio than the industry as a whole, which is around 25 percent,” Jones said. “It is indicative that the market has gotten much more competitive in Texas and Alabama, where we have our agencies for Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company.”
Calling 2014 a banner year for Mission:Dignity, Jones reported nearly 1,800 new donors. Gifts grew by nearly 15 percent. In December, more than a million dollars was given for the first time to the ministry that provides financial assistance to retired pastors and their widows. The ministry is provided through gifts of individuals, Sunday school classes, churches and, increasingly, through estate gifts, Jones said. No Cooperative Program funding is used for Mission:Dignity.
For more information about Mission:Dignity, contact GuideStone at 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433) or go to MissionDignitySBC.org.
GuideStone funds available to church members
John Raymond, chief business and marketing officer, reported to trustees about the ongoing efforts to market the GuideStone Funds to investors, with a target of Southern Baptist and other evangelical church members.
Between May 1 and Dec. 31, 792 new accounts totaling $35.5 million in assets were opened. Five accounts totaled more than $1 million in assets and 92 accounts included more than $100,000 in assets.
Marketing and public relations efforts continue, including ads in print and online publications and local radio stations. Media interviews with targeted financial publications are ongoing, as well as event marketing.
To help spread the news about GuideStone investment opportunities, new social media channels have been launched. To learn more about all of GuideStone’s presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+, visit GuideStone.org/Promotions/Stay-Connected.
Raymond added that investors who prefer to work through established financial advisor relationships are able to do so. GuideStone Funds are available on major platforms where advisors access funds for their clients’ investing needs.
Trustees honor executive retirees
Trustees honored Rodney R. Miller, longtime GuideStone general counsel, and Rodric E. Cummins, longtime GuideStone chief investment officer, upon their respective retirements. Both will continue to consult with GuideStone over the coming months.
Additionally, Matt L. Peden, a 19-year veteran of GuideStone Capital Management, LLC, who has served closely with Cummins in developing and overseeing GuideStone’s investment process, was elected chief investment officer.
Also during the meeting, chief financial officer Jeff Billinger announced his retirement, effective in March 2016. Trustees elected Kim Walthall, currently chief services and operations officer, to fill the role of chief financial officer. She will oversee a combined division of Financial Services and Operations.
At the March 2 evening dinner, Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd spoke to the trustees about calling the Convention to prayer during the upcoming annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Also, trustees honored trustees Danny H. Coker Sr. (Arizona), Joseph D. Fail (Mississippi) and Thomas A. Seel (Indiana), whose terms of service end in June.
Trustees meet again in July in Nashville.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy E. Head is the executive officer for denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources.)