Thursday, September 06, 2012

Reorganized BBT Board focuses on committee work and investments.

Boston Common Management representatives meet with Brethren Benefit Trust in August.
Photo by BBT
Boston Common Management representatives meet with Brethren Benefit Trust in August.
The annual reorganization of Brethren Benefit Trust’s Board of Directors marked the beginning of a three-day series of meetings involving board members and BBT staff in Elgin, Ill., from Aug. 3-5. Led by re-elected chairwoman Karen O. Crim and vice chairwoman Ann Quay Davis, the board’s committee work drove key decisions in the areas of investments, Brethren Pension Plan, the Retirement Benefits Fund Contingency Fund, and the administration of the board.

This year’s summer meeting replaced a much shorter four-hour meeting typically held in July at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

“We expanded the summer meeting so that we had enough time to delve into issues both as committees and as a full board,” said Crim.

Investment Committee reviews three asset managers

The Investment Committee interviewed two investment managers to replace its current short-term manager, and it chose Ponder Investment Co. based on strong performance history and willingness to meet BBT’s socially responsible investing parameters.

A third investment manager was also interviewed during the day-long Investment Committee meeting--domestic large-cap core and international equity manager Boston Common. Representatives of the Boston-based firm responded to a questionnaire and presented information about its performance as part of a three-year review cycle for BBT’s eight investment managers.

Committee members requested that investment consulting firm Marquette Associates prepare annual reviews of the breadth and appropriateness of BBT’s fund offerings. Brethren Pension Plan members have access to up to 16 fund offerings, and Brethren Foundation clients will soon be able to invest in up to 21 funds.

Two new board members had their first meeting on the committee: Tom McCracken, a financial adviser from Dallastown, Pa., and Eric Kabler, an investment adviser from Johnstown, Pa. They joined Harry Rhodes, an attorney from Roanoke, Va., and voted him committee chairman.

“We need to continually assess the funds that we’re offering our clients and members so that we can best meet the investment and diversification needs of those we serve,” said Rhodes. “It is this committee’s responsibility to give BBT’s constituents the tools they need to manage their assets well.”

Pension Plan prepares for new record keeper; Task Force recommends new mortality assumption

Brethren Pension Plan staff will now be able to consolidate multiple accounts of plan members who have served more than one Brethren Pension Plan sponsor. The board approved this recommendation as a way to prepare for Brethren Pension Plan’s move to a new record keeper, which charges its fee based on the number of accounts it manages. The board also voted to eliminate a difficult-to-compute catch-up contribution provision.

Before the full board meeting began on Saturday, the Pension Plan Task Force gathered to receive research and guidance from Marquette Associates regarding the allocation of the Retirement Benefits Fund (RBF), which pays out benefits to Brethren Pension Plan retirees.

“Brethren Pension Plan continues to work toward returning the RBF to fully funded status,” said Scott Douglas, director of Employee Benefits. “Our goal is to balance the RBF’s liabilities with market returns, while managing the overall risk of the portfolio.”

The task force also revisited a recommendation from its April meeting to change the mortality assumption that is used to help determine benefits payouts for Brethren Pension Plan members. The full board approved the change, which will provide a more accurate picture of the life expectancy of annuitants.

Governance, Budget Audit and Review, and Property groups present guidance to the board

The Governance Committee met on Friday to continue its mission of assessing board performance, developing resources to train new board members, and growing the pool of candidates for future board members. Donna Forbes-Steiner and Carol Hess were elected chairwoman and vice chairwoman of that committee, respectively. The Budget Audit and Review Committee also met on Friday to elect Ann Quay Davis chairwoman and Karen O. Crim vice chairwoman, as well as to review a recommendation from BBT staff. The Property Task Force gathered on Friday evening to assess BBT’s office space needs.

Other news
  • After Saturday’s daylong meeting, the board joined BBT staff members, retirees, and their guests for a banquet to honor milestones in the careers of several staff members. Brethren Foundation director Steve Mason was honored for his five years of strong service; Tammy Chudy, manager of Insurance Operations, received accolades for her 10 years of service; Connie Sandman, member services representative for Insurance, was recognized for her outstanding 30 years of service. Christian folk ensemble Act of Grace performed for the attendees.
  • John Waggoner, a personal finance columnist for “USA Today,” resigned from the board in the week leading up to the board meeting. His successor will be announced in the coming months.
  • The next full meeting of the BBT Board will take place in Elgin and Mount Morris, Ill., from Nov. 15-18. Board and staff members will meet with members and clients at Pinecrest Community, a Brethren-affiliated retirement community. Several committees will meet between now and the board meeting as they continue their work.

-- Brian Solem is publications coordinator for Brethren Benefit Trust.

Source: 9/6/2012 Newsline

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