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Ninth Biennial Convention
Augustana University College, Cambros AB
June 12 - 15, 2003

Sing to the Lord a New Song
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Report of ELCIC Group Services Inc.

  1. Organization
    1. Purpose

      ELCIC Group Services Inc (GSI) assists the ELCIC by administering the pension plan and facilitating the provision of employment benefit programs and services to the employees of the ELCIC.

    2. Board Members
    Rev Bradford Senften, Chairperson Rev G W Luetkehoelter
    Mr David MacIntosh, Vice-Chairperson Ms Yvonne Myrehaug
    Mr Daniel Skaret, Treasurer Mr Walter Schultz
    Rev Boyd Molder, Secretary Mr Kurt Von Schilling
    Justice Ken Hanssen Mr John Wolff

    1. Staff

      Ms Hildy Thiessen, Executive Director Ms Diana McLoughlin
      Ms Marlene Lucky Ms Erika Wiens
      Ms Caroline Mann Ms Debi Wright

    2. Regular meetings were held on

      September 21–22, 2001
      November 16–17, 2001
      March 1–2, 2002
      June 21–22, 2002
      November 15–16, 2002
      February 28 and March 1, 2003

Board Governance

The GSI Board created a Governance Manual, which describes and defines:

    • corporate structure
    • organizational structure
    • bylaws
    • roles and responsibilities of National Church Council, the Board of Directors, the chairperson, and the executive director
    • conflict of interest guidelines
    • corporate operating plan and budget, and
    • statement of investment policies and objectives.

The Board also created committees of the Board, namely an Executive Committee, a Finance Committee, a Nominating Committee, an Investment Committee and a Communications Committee. The terms of reference and specific responsibilities are also included in the Governance Manual. This manual is reviewed on an annual basis.

  1. Pension Plan

    The Pension Plan includes a Defined Contribution arrangement for the active clergy and lay workers of the ELCIC, its congregations, related institutions and agencies. Both the active members and their employers make monthly contributions into the Pension Plan. These funds are held in trust at CIBC Mellon. The funds are invested by two separate fund managers based on the approved investment policies. At their retirement, members may annuitize their account balances and have a pension paid from the Defined Benefit portion of the Pension Plan. Terminated members may leave their account balance in the fund until retirement or transfer the balance to a Locked in Retirement Account (LIRA). At retirement members also have the option to transfer their funds to a LIRA at retirement.

    While National Church Council (NCC) remains the administrator of the plan, ELCIC Group Service Inc. (GSI) has been contracted by NCC to carry out the administration of the plan.

  2. Pension Plan Performance

    In 2001 the plan reported a return net of investment expenses of –4.81%. For 2002, while not finalized at time of writing this report, we estimate the return to be –9.7%. These returns have a direct impact on the account balances of the active members of the plan, as well as the reserves held for retirees’ annuities. The effect of these returns together with other actuarial factors is determined once every three years when an Actuarial Valuation is done. The next such valuation will be as at December 31, 2003.

    Given the performance no excess interest payments were available at the beginning or 2002 or 2003.

  3. Changes in Service Providers

    1. Investment Fund Managers

      Most Investment Fund Managers have a general style of equity investing. The two most common styles are growth and value, each tending to perform differently depending on the market situation. During the late 1990’s, the growth style significantly outperformed value, but for the past several years this situation has reversed.

      KBSH Capital Management has followed a consistent growth style since being hired in 1997 and have continued to perform as well as or better than other growth-style managers during this period, so their services have been retained. However the results of our other manager, Laketon Investment Management, have significantly lagged in recent years, and the Board decided to terminate their contract.

      In place of Laketon, the Board selected Jarislowsky Fraser Limited. This decision was made after an extensive "search" assisted by Mercer Investment Consulting. The GSI Investment Committee reviewed a list of candidates identified by Mercer from its database, and interviewed a shortlist of four firms. Jarislowsky Fraser was chosen based on the fact that it has a disciplined and value-oriented style of equity investing that provides a very good offset to KBSH, plus it is a large well-established firm with excellent performance over a number of years.

      We are confident that in future years they will provide a strong contribution to investment results for the ELCIC Pension Plan.

    2. Pension Consultant and Actuary

      As with all of our service providers, the pension consultant and actuary’s services are reviewed from time to time. The Board decided late in 2001 to seek proposals from several firms offering these services. After studying the proposals, Mercer Human Resource Consulting was selected in March 2002 to replace AON Consulting Inc.

    3. Auditor

      The auditor of the Pension Plan and Group Services Inc., Ernest Kurbis resigned after the completion of the 2001 audit. The Audit Committee of National Church Council appoints the auditor of both of these organizations. A request for proposals was sent to major international accounting firms and five other national firms. After a review of the proposals to consider knowledge of our business, past experience with similar clients, depth of resources, and competitive fees, Ernst & Young was appointed.

  4. Group Benefit Plans

    All employees of participating ELCIC employers are enrolled in the benefit program (based on eligibility). We have very strong and competitive benefit plans. Coverage includes: life insurance, long term disability, accidental death and dismemberment, employee and family assistance programs (EFAP), extended health and dental coverage.

    Our experience for the life benefit has been very good and the experience on the long-term disability has improved since the EFAP began. This experience has helped to keep our rates consistent from year to year and the employers, who pay for this benefit, have not seen an increase in their rates.

    The health and dental plan which was established as a National Plan in January 2001, saw a significant premium increase at its first renewal in June of 2002. The premiums were increased based on experience by province with the overall combined increase being 28.6%. This increase is reflective of the claims submitted and the rising cost of health care. We obtained an estimate of the premiums for the June 2003 renewal and again were advised of significant increases of approximately 30% over last year.

    The Board decided to market the total insurance plan to:

    • get the best premium rates available;
    • obtain ideas on cost containment;
    • obtain information on new features such as drug cards; and
    • have in future, firm premium rates in the fall in time for congregational budgeting.

    We are currently reviewing the results of this market search and will publish the carrier selection and other outcomes in the upcoming newsletter, which is mailed to all employees and available on our web site www.elcicgsi.ca for anyone else who may be interested.

  5. Staffing

    Ms Carole Cockrell, who served as Executive Director for eight years retired in April 2002. Her long-time assistant Ms Marilyn Muir also retired in 2002 and Mr Doug Gillis and Ms Norma Bergen resigned in 2002 to explore other opportunities. We appreciate all their hard work and dedication in their many years of service and wish them all the best in their retirement and new work challenges respectively.

    Ms Hildy Thiessen has been hired as the new Executive Director. Hildy is a Chartered Accountant and has a strong background in the not-for-profit sector and in administering employee pension and benefit programs. She has in turn hired Ms Caroline Mann, Ms Debi Wright and Ms Diana McLoughlin to fill the other positions. These people all bring the knowledge, expertise and friendly service skills required to fulfill the mission of GSI.

  6. Appreciation

    The Executive Director and the Board Chair wishes to thank Bishop Lee Luetkehoelter for his years of service and dedication to this Board. He has most recently served as Chair of the Communications Committee and his insight and connection to the members will be missed.

  7. Retirements

    Retirements in 2001:

    Rev Marlin Aadland Ms Christel Kreitz Rev Ronald Sagness
    Ms Carol A. Allen Rev Rodney McFarlane Rev Telmor Sartison
    Ms Carol I. Allen Ms Audrey Meyer Ms M Eileen Sawa
    Rev William Brown Ms Elaine Miller Rev Guenther Schoepf
    Rev Erwin Buck Rev Everett Mossman Rev John Schroeppel
    Rev Wai-Chui Chan Rev John Nunns Mr Dan Skaret
    Ms Kathleen Erdman Rev Caron Parke Ms Gail Stolee
    Rev Carl Kappes Rev Donald Pond Rev Terrence Throndson
    Rev John Kleiner Rev Adam Prasuhn Rev Peeter Vanker
    Rev Melvin Kornfeld Rev Robert Robb Ms Gloria Wells

    Retirements in 2002:

    Rev John Anderson Rev Richard Hanson Rev Gayla Richards
    Ms Anne Beretta Rev Harold Hesje Rev Henry Schaper
    Rev Arthur Gary Buckley Rev Robert Hutchison Rev Merle Snustead
    Rev Glen Carlson Rev Arne Jensen Rev Lawrence Soveran
    Ms Carole Cockrell Rev David Kaiser Ms Gertrude Steciuk
    Mr Dennis Coughlan Rev Guenther Kern Rev Marvin Svingen
    Rev Suzanne Cowles Rev Edwin Long Jr. Rev Kari Valanne
    Rev Joseph Drepaul Ms Florence Morck Rev Robert Vedell
    Ms Ellen Ekdahl Ms Marilyn Muir Rev Donald Vinge
    Rev Sonja Free Ms Margaret Olson Rev Ronald Weatherington
    Rev Allan Grundahl Rev Ernest Paetsch Rev Friedmut Wilhelm
    Rev Frederick Haak Rev Robert Rademacher Ms Fay Wilton

Respectfully submitted,

Bradford Senften, Chair
Hildy Thiessen, Executive Director


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