DALLAS— GuideStone Financial Resources ended 2016 with $13.3 billion in assets, officers told trustees during the board’s winter meeting in Dallas Feb. 27-28.
Chief Operating Officer John Jones presented a report that detailed GuideStone’s state of affairs through 2016, noting the $13.3 billion in assets shows steady growth from the $6.8 billion at the nadir of the economic crisis of 2008-09. More than $540 million in assets were added during calendar 2016.
Jones reported that GuideStone has also added almost $600 million in assets in the first seven weeks of 2017, which he attributed to the “Trump bump,” a reference to the climbing U.S. stock market since President Donald Trump took office.
Also included in the COO’s report was an indicator of GuideStone’s success as related to its peer financial institutions. According to fi360, an investment firm that ranks the performance of financial management groups, GuideStone ranked in the top 35%, ahead of major mutual funds such as Fidelity, T. Rowe Price, and Putnam.
“This obviously so positively reflects on both the kingdom, first and foremost, and for Southern Baptist life,” Jones said. “The Extended-Duration Bond Fund has probably been our most highly recognized and awarded fund. For 2016 we ranked No. 1 in the 1-, 5- and 10-year periods.”
Group plan enrollments have grown by 4.6 percent over the last year while participation in individual plans has decreased by almost 10 percent. According to Jones, the individual plans are largely comprised of pastors of small churches for whom traditional insurance has become cost-prohibitive.
“So many of those pastors are truly at the proverbial crossroads and cannot afford insurance. And the government exchanges that are offered with the subsidies offer a viable alternative for them,” Jones said.
Retirement aggregates for 2016 totaled $550 million, compared to a three-year average of $470 million for 2013-2015. There was also a significant increase in investments from intermediary platforms, which jumped from $2 million in 2015 to $144 million in 2016.
Trustees also approved an official media policy in response to a motion from last year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. Lonnie Wilkey, a messenger from Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Old Hickory, Tenn., submitted a motion asking entity trustees to examine their media policies and consider making committee meetings open to the public.
Although Guidestone’s plenary sessions have historically been open to the press, trustees chose to keep committee meetings private.
“For decades individual committee meetings of the Board of Trustees and their reports to the board are work sessions and involve discussion of sensitive and personal information (including legal, competitive data, personal financial data of Mission:Dignity participants, and private health information governed by HIPAA) and are therefore restricted to trustees, appropriate staff and invited vendors,” the statement read.
Insurance premiums increased by 5.6 percent last year, while client and reserve adjustments jumped by 11.4 percent. This was a result of higher-than-anticipated healthcare claims, particularly in-hospital claims and catastrophic claims, classified as those that exceed $825,000.
Mission:Dignity, which provides financial assistance to retired pastors and widows, had a record year in 2016 with the number of giving units up 20 percent over 2015. For the first time in a decade, Mission:Dignity saw a net year-over-year increase in the number of participants receiving financial assistance.
GuideStone underspent its 2016 budget by $7.6 million, largely as a result of lower salary costs. Compared to this point last year GuideStone has seen a 12 percent reduction in number of staff, though Jones reports maintained efficiencies.
GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins reported to the trustees on this year’s theme of innovation, using the story of Nehemiah as an example of approaching old problems with new solutions. He pointed out that those who seek to innovate must face up, team up, gird up, and look up.
“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,” Hawkins said.
Rolling off the board after this meeting include trustees 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).
The departing trustees were honored by Hawkins at a dinner Monday night where they were presented with a gift for their service.