MINUTES OF THE 132nd ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
FEBRUARY 10, 2017
L'Olivier Restaurant, San Francisco, California
The meeting was called to order at 6:25 PM.
Ruedi Sandmeier extended a warm welcome to this year's guest of honor, Consul General Hans-Ulrich Tanner. He also extended a special welcome to Annette Kern-Munz and Max Munz, joining us from Switzerland. They are the sister and brother of the late Walter Munz, who left us over half a million in his testament. In addition, he welcomed two recipients of the 2016 scholarship awards: Claire Zurcher-Hamm and Nicholas Strauli. Board members Carola Gutierrez and Dan Eggen were unable to attend the meeting.
Our records show that we have 114 dues-paying members at this time. 10%, or 12 members, represent a quorum. In addition to 27 members present, we received 17 proxies; therefore we have a quorum and can proceed with our Agenda.
Copies of the minutes of the 2016 Annual Meeting have been placed on each table. They are posted on the SBS website. A motion to approve the minutes was made by Andy Eggler, seconded by Pius Kampfen.
Treasurer John Zeiter proceeded to read the details of the financial profit and loss statement and endowment balances.
Hans Surber presented the report of the audit that he and Pius Kampfen conducted for the period of January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016. During their examination, the auditors made sure that the five funds and the new Walter Munz Fund are properly recorded at Schwab. They noted that Treasurer John Zeiter keeps the books in an orderly manner. In conclusion, they found that the balance sheet and the statements of operations fairly present the financial position of the Society.
Investment Committee Report presented by Andy Eggler
Andy began his report by noting that, as mentioned in Ruedi and John's reports, the SBS is the beneficiary of a windfall gain in excess of $500,000 from the Walter Munz estate, a boost to our portfolio which enables us to generate significantly more income, and more income means more generous stipends and welfare payments.
It is our solemn duty to invest the new money carefully and judiciously and we are using a dollar-cost average strategy, i.e. we are going to put the funds in the market over time, more specifically over a period of about 5 months. The reason for this approach lies in the market's high valuation and the looming risk of a long overdue correction in the near future.
As far as the outlook for 2017 and beyond is concerned, I think we have reason for optimism. There is little doubt that a reduced regulatory backdrop, together with reduced taxes, will unleash the American corporate animal spirit - this is good for profits, we all love them, and higher profits mean more dividends.
Our portfolio returned 4.5%. On the face of it this does not look spectacular compared with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, which returned 11 and 10% respectively. But let's not forget that we are bound by our investment parameters to put one half of our endowment in equities and the other half in fixed income securities, including cash. We have been living for so long in an extraordinarily low interest rate environment, where bonds have been yielding next to nothing. Thus, considering that our return was almost exclusively derived from the equity portion, I think 4.5% looks pretty decent.
Ruedi Sandmeier complimented Andy on the great job he continues to do.
Welfare Report presented by Ruedi Sandmeier
We received a plea for support from two women last year.
- A woman who is separated from her husband and suffered back problems, allowing her to work only part-time. She is OK income-wise but needed assistance to pay for roof repair work. We supported her with $2,000 to fix a skylight and a window before the winter.
- A single woman whose business selling books on Amazon has gone down to zero pleaded for support paying her bills. We supported her with an initial amount of $1,000. Further support is pending. It should be noted that if a person is eligible for Fürsorge from the Swiss government we will help as well.
Just one word about welfare vs. scholarships: we state that all contributions from members like you go to scholarships. This is correct: we fund both welfare and administrative costs out of our income from the General Fund holdings (dividends, interest, capital gains). Your donations as well as all gains in our five scholarship funds go to scholarships exclusively.
Scholarship Committee Report presented by John Andrew
The Scholarship Committee (Marianne Strotz, Susann Sandmeier, and John Andrew) is pleased to report that in 2016, the Society awarded $40,500 in scholarships to 11 young Swiss in Northern California. For comparison, in 2015 we made 13 awards for a total of $49,000
Some details of our program this year include the following:
- The Committee received 15 applications, from which the Board made 11 awards.
- Ten of the students who applied were re-applicants.
- Awards were made from two of the named funds—Amstutz and Iselin—with the remainder of the awards from the General Fund.
- Like last year, each award was again supplemented with an additional $500 from the generous donation of the Scherer Family and their friends.
- This year, there was a focus on health, based on the majors of the awardees (e.g. nursing, pre-med, biomedical science, public health).
- The students also represent a wide range of institutions, including the University of California, Stanford, and the Ivy League.
We did not make an award from either the Canonica or the Isler Fund in 2016 due to a lack of qualified applicants. In 2017, we look forward to making awards from both of these two funds, as well as the new Walter Munz Fund.
I close by thanking Marianne and Susann for their fine and continuing work on the committee and, above all, I thank our membership for their generous donations that make these scholarships possible.
Ruedi then asked our two young guests to introduce themselves and tell us about their studies.
- Claire Zurcher-Hamm is a second year student at UC Berkeley; she's interested in international relations and rhetoric. Claire is thankful for everything the SBS does to help students.
- Nicholas Strauli is a third year recipient of our scholarship; as a PhD student at UCSF, he is doing research in biomedical science, in particular the immune system. He hopes to graduate as soon as possible and is extremely appreciative of the financial help we provide.
Membership Committee Report, prepared by Carola Gutierrez, presented by Ruedi Sandmeier
As membership chair, Carola updates our online database with donation and contact information. She also sends out three mailings per year (Spring, Fall, Annual Meeting).
Active donors (have donated since 11/2015): 114 active households, which includes 7 new households; we have had 54 households donating since the 2016 Fall mailing.
We have 11 organizations that donate, mostly Swiss clubs.
Inactive members are those who sent their last donation between November 2014 and October 2015; there are currently 18 inactive households that will receive our Fall mailing in hopes they will resume their membership.
Last year, we had 116 active donors. We have lost contact with some due to not having a current address, a quick reminder to please update your address on the SBS database if needed. Some of the decrease in active numbers were one-time donors that donated in memoriam. But overall, our membership numbers are staying steady.
President's Report by Ruedi Sandmeier
2016 had mixed news for us:
End of May, we received the sad news that our former president, friend and fellow Basler Ernest Plattner had passed away. We posted his obituary on our website. His family graciously asked friends to donate to our society in lieu of flowers. I want to reiterate our gratitude to Rita Plattner and her daughters for their thoughtful gesture. And thank you, Rita, for attending our meeting tonight.
In November 2015, Walter Munz, a San Francisco resident, passed away and left in his will defined sums for his godson and his three siblings, and "the rest to the Swiss Benevolent Society". At that moment we did not know what to expect, but in November 2016 I was informed that the rest is $547,000! This blew me away, of course. In consultation with his friend and executor of the will, and later with his brother Max Munz, we decided to create scholarships in Walter's name, including a new culinary one, as Walter was a pastry chef. I also invited his friend to join our board. He declined but told me that Max Munz, the brother living in Switzerland, is interested in joining our board. So, our board decided to move that forward and propose to the members that we make Max Munz a "corresponding member". That is why Max and his sister Annette decided to fly in and are our guests today. The by-laws require a resolution to be approved in order to add a non-US resident to our board.
At this point, I would like to invite Max to say a few words.
Max informed us that his brother moved to the U.S. in 1967, having previously lived in Colombia. He bought a house in San Francisco in 1970, worked in clubs at first, then in his own business. Over the course of the years, his family had a chance to visit Walter in San Francisco. He retired a few years ago. In addition to his love of fine food, Walter was a renowned wine connoisseur and collector.
This last remark elicited a comment that we might consider a scholarship for an oenology student at UC Davis.
Ruedi resumed his report by mentioning that we created a brand new brochure, to reflect the new scholarships and some other change.
Our traditional Senior Party and Spring Dance was attended by about 80 participants. It was a great party, not least because we had raffle prizes of over $2,500 to give away.
I have an excellent board helping me to run the various tasks of our Society. I hope you can honor that by re-electing two members standing for re-election. We still have an opening on the board; if you are interested or if you know someone, I'd like to hear about that.
We still have the issue of a declining trend in membership. One idea is to encourage the present members to recruit their children as well as younger acquaintances to join our Society.
In conclusion, since no matters to be voted on were submitted from the floor, we can now proceed to the elections.
Under our By-Laws, the Directors are elected based on a system of rotation over a three-year period. Two board members are up for re-election, as well as the two auditors. We propose that Max Munz be elected for a three-year term as "corresponding member". This is an exception to our by-laws, which state that "Individual members shall be American residents..."
Now it is time to hand over the meeting to Consul General Tanner.
Remarks by Consul General Jomé Tanner
I am very pleased to be here tonight, very happy to see that the funds are growing. It is important that you are there when we need you, and we work very well together.
Now let’s proceed with the re-election of two board members to a three-year term, and two Auditors to a one-year term:
– John Andrew, Scholarship Committee Chair
– Susann Sandmeier, Scholarship Committee
– Max Munz, Director At Large, Corresponding Board Member
– Hans Surber, Auditor
– Pius Kampfen, Auditor
Approval of each election was done by acclamation.
Ruedi Sandmeier expressed his appreciation to Mr. Tanner for conducting the elections so efficiently and for the steadfast support we have been receiving from the Swiss Consulate.
This brings the official Meeting to a close. Do I hear a motion to adjourn?
With no questions or comments from the audience, a motion was made by Andy Eggler, seconded by Susann Sandmeier, to close the meeting.
Meeting closed at 7:00 PM.
(SBS members may request a written copy of the minutes by contacting the Secretary)