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The PC(USA)’s Board of Pensions releases its Board Bulletin for spring 2023

For the 11th straight year, directors grant an experience apportionment

by Board of Pensions | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Note: The Board Bulletin is published after each regular meeting of the Board of Directors of The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It represents key information and actions taken that affect plans and programs administered by the Board of Pensions.

As the Board of Directors gathered for its spring meeting, the agency prepared to enter a season of rebuilding — a transformative effort, in collaboration with the Church, to assess and redesign the Benefits Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) so congregations might be better served.

Approximately 30% of ministers ordained in the PC(USA) since 2007 are not enrolled in the Church’s plan, which provides not just benefits but access to Board of Pensions assistance and education programs. Only 20% of Black churches have an installed pastor. These statistics highlight the need for the exploration of solutions that will serve more through a focus on flexibility, choice and cost control.

The Board of Pensions has a longstanding commitment to administering benefits in ways that serve the needs of more churches and more ministers. In 2017, it launched the redesigned Benefits Plan, with flexible options that enabled more congregations to offer the Church’s plan to more church employees. And, in the years since, it has introduced programs that provide dues incentives for small congregations and new and innovative ministries. These steps align with the agency’s role of providing tools and resources to mid councils and congregations, which are adjusting to an evolving denomination.

In the season of rebuilding, directors and agency staff will consider other ways in which benefits might be provided to serve the needs of more churches and more ministers.

During their time together, directors also considered how the Board of Pensions is serving current members of the Church’s Benefits Plan. In 2022, the agency began collecting demographic data so it might understand, and begin to meet, the needs of more members. It further expanded its service in Korean and Spanish languages and broadened access to its assistance and education programs.

Further extending support to historically marginalized communities, such as those that are predominantly non-English-speaking, was among the Board of Directors’ recommendations for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the agency, adopted in fall 2021. In response to the recommendations, directors learned, the agency also sharpened its focus on DEI criteria in selecting and managing its business partners. And it expanded its job candidate pool, resulting in people of color accounting for 62% of new hires and women for 50%.

Even as the agency was building a diverse workforce, the staff-run Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Council (DEILC) was taking steps to foster a welcoming culture to support it. That included informing staff through articles and the introduction of the Inclusive Communications Resource on the intranet. DEILC worked with the agency’s new consulting partner, Dr. James Smith Jr., who led staff workshops and training, with unconscious bias training required of all employees. DEILC also partnered with such diverse organizations as Girls Who Code.

The welcoming culture being fostered at the Board of Pensions blends well with its longstanding culture of service. When employees feel welcome, they are comfortable sharing their gifts, gifts that strengthen the Board of Pensions so it can serve more, serve better, and serve the Church.

Additional information from the Board of Directors spring meeting follows.

Directors reelect leadership

The Board of Directors reelected the current officers, whose service will end with the conclusion of the 226th General Assembly (2024). The leadership of these individuals will be critical in the year ahead as the agency’s season of rebuilding gets underway. The reelected officers follow:

  • The Rev. Margaret O. Fox, Chairperson
  • Andrew Junkin, First Vice Chair
  • Bradley Perkins, Second Vice Chair

Balanced Investment Portfolio returns negative 11.6% in 2022

Donald A. Walker III, Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer, reviewed the Board of Pensions Balanced Investment Portfolio asset allocation, liquidity profile, and 2022 performance of negative 11.6% within the context of global economic and political events. Annualized returns for all reported periods over the last 20 years exceeded the Board’s asset mix benchmark, represented by blending 65% MSCI All Country World Index, 30% Bloomberg U.S. Universal Bond Index, and 5% 90-day U.S. Treasury Bill returns.

The Balanced Investment Portfolio is the investment fund for the Defined Benefit Pension Plan, Financial Protection Programs, Endowment Fund, and Assistance Program assets. On December 31, 2022, the Balanced Investment Portfolio had a market value of $10.4 billion.

Balanced Investment Portfolio Performance as of December 31, 2022

Year to Date 2 Years 3 Years 5 Years 10 Years 15 Years 20 years
Portfolio -11.6 0.5 4.7 5.3 7.3 5.9 7.7
Benchmark -15.4 -2.7 2.5 4.1 6.1 4.7 6.9

Suzanne P. Welsh, Chair of the Investment Committee, provided an overview of the committee’s work on behalf of members of the Benefits Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and their beneficiaries. The committee recommended, and the full Board of Directors approved, changes to the asset allocation ranges, which recognized the Board’s intention to modestly increase, and then maintain, allocations to alternatives, such as private equity and real estate, while decreasing public equity investments commensurately. The table below illustrates the asset allocation as of December 31, 2022.

Asset Allocations as of December 31, 2022

Asset Class Sub-Asset Class Previous Ranges Adopted Ranges Allocations as of December 31, 2022
Public Equity 35-65% 55.5%
US Equity 30-50% 25-50% 32.1%
International/

Global Equity

10-25% 10-30% 23.4%
Alternatives 0-20% 10-25% 15.4%
Fixed Income (including cash) 25-45% 25-40% 29.1%

The committee reviewed its investment policy allocation targets and modestly increased its target for real estate/private credit. The committee also approved additional investments and co-investments in private equity, private credit and real estate.

The committee received a report on the public equity components of the portfolio, comprising U.S. equity and international/global equity.

The committee reviewed the asset allocation and investment performance of the investment options in the 403(b)(9) Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the 401(k) New Covenant Retirement Savings Plan.

Directors grant experience apportionment

The Board of Directors granted a 4.2% experience apportionment for the Defined Benefit Pension Plan. The apportionment will take effect July 1. The apportionment was granted according to the Board of Pensions experience apportionment policy guidelines.

The apportionment will result in an increase in retirement and survivor pension benefits for pension plan members and survivors receiving benefits as of July 1, 2023, and an increase on July 1, 2023, in the pension credits accrued as of December 31, 2022, for active and vested terminated members of the pension plan.

Apportionments are tied to the overall funded status of the pension plan. The funded status was 150% at year-end 2022. The goal of the apportionment guidelines is to ensure long-term financial stability of the plan, maintain generational equity, and protect against inflation over the long term. This latest apportionment, the 11th consecutive, yields a cumulative increase of 40.3% since 2013.

Increase in disability benefit approved

The Board of Directors approved a 7%increase in the disability benefit, effective July 1, 2023. Those who were receiving the benefit as of December 31, 2022, will receive the increase. Increases are intended to keep the disability benefit aligned with the purchasing power of current recipients.

Death and Disability Plan assets and liabilities are evaluated independently of the other plans administered by the Board of Pensions. Directors review investment and actuarial experience, reserves, and inflation in deciding whether to increase the disability benefit.

The next meeting of the Board of Directors is scheduled June 22-24. For further information, email the Corporate Secretary.


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