TRUSTEES: Long-range plan, GuideStone Funds' performance highlighted

Baptist Press
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Posted: Aug 11, 2011 6:22 PM
TRUSTEES: Long-range plan, GuideStone Funds' performance highlighted
CHICAGO (BP)--The value of GuideStone 100 -- the long-range plan of GuideStone Financial Resources -- was noted by O.S. Hawkins, the Southern Baptist entity's president, during GuideStone trustees' July 25-26 summer meeting in Chicago.

"GuideStone 100 was born out of GuideStone's mission, vision and values," Hawkins said. "In our increasingly competitive environment, it enables us to be more strategic and to take a coherent, integrated approach to better serve our participants now and in the future. Because of this strategic perspective we are able to budget beyond a one-year cycle, we are able to allocate resources more effectively, and we are able to measure our progress from year-to-year."

GuideStone 100 was first conceived in 2004 as trustees and staff collaborated on a plan entailing three phases: GuideStone 90 (2008), GuideStone 95 (2013) and GuideStone 100 (2018). Since 2005, dozens of participant enhancements and strategic projects have been completed, including a free life insurance benefit for all full-time students enrolled in Southern Baptist seminaries; a personalized MyGuideStone website allowing participants 24/7 access to their account information; the MyGuideStone iPhone app and mobile website; enhanced participant account statements; the launch of GuideStone's property and casualty insurance program; and the implementation of GPS: Guided Planning Services*, a free tool that provides specific asset allocation advice for retirement plan participants.

Turning to GuideStone's medical plans, Hawkins told trustees that during the current economic recession GuideStone has continued to provide high levels of coverage at competitive costs to its participants.

"Although GuideStone's medical plan participants, like the participants of all other providers, have seen rates increase in the past few years," Hawkins noted that "GuideStone has been able to mitigate the increases for our participants" by "continuing to control costs through optimal PPO discounts, aggressive pharmacy benefit pricing negotiations and ongoing attention to administrative costs."

"In addition, unlike many of our competitors, GuideStone participants can transfer coverage to richer or less expensive plans each year without providing evidence of good health, allowing them to choose the coverage that best fits their needs and budget," Hawkins said.

Since 2004, national industry health-care cost increases have been in the double digits on an annual basis. However, in contrast to double-digit industry increases, during that same time the average GuideStone participant's total costs (premium plus out-of-pocket expenses) increased just 2.2 percent per year.

Trustees also were informed that GuideStone will be introducing a lower-cost value medical plan, Basic Health 5000, in 2012, for healthy participants and families who are looking for low-cost, meaningful health coverage.

Additionally, the growth of expanded market ministries was highlighted by Hawkins in his report to trustees during the late-July meeting.

"The wisdom of our decision to pursue likeminded evangelical organizations is increasingly borne out with each following year," Hawkins noted. "Currently expanded markets ministries account for 16 percent of our total group medical plan participants, and they provide 8 percent of our total retirement contributions. This is an important factor in broadening our insurance base with younger lives which enables us to keep our premiums lower for our participants and also provides additional economies of scale for all our product lines."

John R. Jones, GuideStone's chief operating officer, reported on GuideStone's operations and updated trustees on the numerous recognitions given to GuideStone in recognition of the outstanding investment returns they had achieved at the end of June.

"GuideStone's assets have grown 17.7 percent over the past year despite the current economic downturn," Jones said. "Over the last several years our mutual funds have continued to receive favorable recognition from industry firms such as Lipper and fi360.

"In a remarkable achievement, GuideStone Funds was ranked No. 2 out of 222 funds nationally for the period ending June 30, 2011, by fi360 Fund Family Fiduciary Rankings. This is a particularly meaningful recognition because of the broad scope of criteria used by fi360 in their rankings," Jones reported. "Their evaluation includes such factors as regulatory oversight, track record, assets under management, stability of the organization, expense ratio/fees relative to peers, risk-adjusted performance relative to peers, and overall investment performance relative to peers. Recognition by fi360 of GuideStone Funds as the No. 2 fund in the United States is a remarkable achievement."

Trustees also were informed that the GuideStone MyDestination 2035 and 2045 funds were ranked No. 1 in their respective categories for the one-year period ending June 30, 2011, according to industry-ranking firm Lipper. The Extended-Duration Bond Fund (GS2 Class) finished with No. 1 rankings in the three- and five-year periods ending June 30, 2011.

Further, as of June 30, 2011, the MyDestination 2045 Fund was ranked No. 1 of 106 funds in the one-year period and 27 of 75 funds in the three-year period in the Mixed-Asset Target 2045 category. The MyDestination 2035 Fund was ranked No. 1 of 107 funds in the one-year period and 26 of 76 funds in the three-year period in the Mixed-Asset Target 2035 category. The Extended-Duration Bond Fund (GS2 Class) was ranked 13 of 138 funds in the one-year period, 1 of 121 funds in the three-year period and 1 of 115 funds in the five-year period in the Corporate Debt Funds A Rated category. (The share classes are defined in each prospectus and relate to eligibility of participants and plan size.)

"We are thrilled to know," Jones said, "that GuideStone Funds continues to rank higher than most well-known household names in the mutual fund industry."

In a report on GuideStone's property and casualty program, trustees were informed that GuideStone is now licensed to provide coverage in 49 states and expects to be licensed in all 50 states in the near future.

Hawkins updated trustees on GuideStone's Mission:Dignity program, which raises funds to provide financial support for needy Southern Baptist pastors, denominational workers, missionaries and their surviving spouses. Despite the current economic climate, Mission:Dignity is attracting a growing list of donors and supporters, Hawkins said. As of June 30, 2011, there were 1,960 Mission:Dignity recipients with 1,520 receiving monthly grants and 458 receiving expense grants. For more about Mission:Dignity, visit www.MissionDignitySBC.org or call 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433).

Hawkins, in his remarks, also encouraged all GuideStone participants to take the time to re-evaluate their investment portfolio and to take advantage of available tax incentives in an effort to maximize the participant's income available upon retirement.

Hawkins further reminded trustees, "Every decision we make as trustees and staff must be considered in terms of our vision statement which says, 'We exist to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security.' In that statement we find our motivation -- to honor the Lord. We find our message -- to be a lifelong partner. And we have our mandate -- to enhance the financial security of our participants."

Timothy E. Head is the executive officer for denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. *Financial advice provided by GuideStone Advisors, a controlled-affiliate of GuideStone Financial Resources.

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