GSI provides update on strong return on investments despite ongoing pandemic

On Friday afternoon, delegates to the 2022 ELCIC National Convention observed a presentation from ELCIC Group Services Incorporated (GSI).

John Wolff, president and board chair, and Lisa Thiessen, executive director, detailed the past three years since last speaking at 2019 ELCIC National Convention in Regina, SK.

October 2022 marks 25 years of GSI’s operation and service as the official pension and benefits plan provider to lay and rostered employees within the church.

“The wheels never stop turning on the eight-member GSI board of directors,” John Wolff said in his presentation. “We are always looking at trends we see, plan memberships, demographics, and the pension and benefits industry both locally and across the board.”

Wolff provided an update on an upcoming two-day strategic planning board meeting, while also highlighting the significant return on investments for members during parts of the past three pandemic years.

“All plan member accounts are invested in a mix of fixed income and growth assets,” Wolff explained. “Over the past number of years, we have found that having this broad and diverse portfolio has served us well in terms of providing returns out of the plan. One of the things we were very pleased with was during the three pandemic years, we were able to maintain very healthy investment returns despite all the challenges in the economy and across the globe.”

He also discussed GSI’s response to a motion from the Eastern Synod inquiring about an in-depth review into alternative investment paths and the cost/gain factors for ELCIC members/employees who opt to go a different direction. GSI has engaged an actuary to provide analysis into various alternatives. 

“Once you equalized assumptions between the various plan alternatives, there was no significant difference between the plan outcomes that the actuary created,” Wolff said. “No single alternative provided better results for all members; it was a mix. In fact, the ELCIC current plan had the most positive results for most plan members. Given there were no clear, strong alternatives that look better, it does not at this point in time make sense to consider an alternative, given the costs and work involved.”

Wolff noted that the report is available to view on the GSI website. 

The report to convention also included updates to plan policies including the member and family assistance program, the lifestyle spending account and the life plus benefit bundle, as well as the recent group health plan redesign. 

“There was a significant governance process leading up to the change in the group health plan, and getting member feedback was our critical first step,” Lisa Thiessen said. “This design has now been in place for about a year-and-a-half. And while these are not usual times due to COVID – which makes it hard to do a true evaluation – the feedback so far confirms that this has been a positive move and it is going well.”