ELCIC Group Services President Receives Recognition

ELCIC Group Services Inc. (GSI) President, John Wolff, was recognized as one of the Top 25 Most Influential Plan Sponsors at the Third Annual Benefits Canada Awards which took place November 5 in Toronto, ON. The Benefits Canada Awards honour individuals and organizations who have demonstrated leadership and innovation in pension investment and administration, and who have contributed to the retirement security of Canadian employees and their families.

Wolff was nominated for the award by peers in the pension and benefits industry; award recipients are then chosen by a panel of judges. His recognition is the result of the cumulative dedication and focused efforts of the GSI Board and staff, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) National Office, and all the congregations and members of the ELCIC.

"The expertise John brought to the board of GSI was exactly what was needed during these challenging market and economic times," says Hildy Thiessen, executive director of GSI. "He’s been extremely committed to the work of the board and has contributed countless hours."

At the 2009 ELCIC National Convention, Wolff reported that in spite of the $16 million unfunded liability that was recorded on December 31, 2003, GSI continues to maintain its pension promise to ELCIC retirees, and the original funding timeline has been reduced from 15 years to 10 years, targeting a fully funded position by the end of 2013.

Prior to his election as president and chair of GSI in October 2007, Wolff served on the GSI Investment Committee and chaired the committee in 2005 and 2006. The investment strategy during those years enabled the pension plan to recognize market gains, which contributed to the reduced funding timeline. The decision to immunize the Retired Benefit Account in 2007 protected the assets from the recent market downturn.

During his time as president, which ended October 2009, Wolff saw GSI face new requirements from pension regulators for more protection due to the uncertain markets and economy. The ELCIC Pension Plan was the first to comply with new legislation in setting up a letter of credit. In May 2009, the ELCIC Pension Plan entered into an annuity contract with Sun Life, taking advantage of a market anomaly and realizing a significant gain in the Pension Plan, while eliminating 90% of the mortality risk and any residual interest rate risk under the immunization strategy. With continued contributions from ELCIC congregations the ELCIC Pension Plan will be fully funded within four years.

GSI is responsible for facilitating, providing and administering employment benefits and retirement income programs and services for the employees of the ELCIC, its member congregations, other entities associated with ELCIC.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 162,100 baptized members in 611 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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