MINUTES OF THE 133rd ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
FEBRUARY 2, 2018
Fior d'Italia Restaurant, San Francisco, California
The meeting was called to order at 6:05 PM.
Ruedi Sandmeier extended a warm welcome to everyone in this new venue. He thanked Marianne Aubert for researching potential venues after L'Olivier closed last spring and finding Fior d'Italia for our Annual Meeting this year. A special welcome to Consul Andrea Köppel, our liaison for the past four years, who will be transferring to Tokyo this summer. In addition, he welcomed two recipients of the 2017 scholarship awards: Lillie Vogt and Ethan Kogon-Schneider. We'll give them a chance to say a few words about themselves and their studies later on. Our auditor Pius Kampfen could not attend; Ruedi also spoke with our past president Hermann Attinger prior to the meeting, who sent his greetings.
Our records show that we have 138 dues-paying members at this time. With 29 members in attendance and 9 proxy statements received, we have a quorum and can proceed with our Agenda.
Copies of the minutes of the 2017 Annual Meeting have been placed on each table. They are posted on the SBS website. John Andrew made a motion to approve the minutes, seconded by Dan Eggen.
After welcoming the audience, Treasurer John Zeiter proceeded to read the details of the financial profit and loss statement and endowment balances. John mentioned that the Board has decided to combine the four named funds into two, a matter that Andy Eggler may cover in his report.
Hans Surber presented the report of the audit that he and Pius Kampfen conducted for the period of January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017. As usual, John Zeiter has kept the books in an exemplary manner. During their examination, the auditors made sure that the five funds and the new Walter Munz Fund are properly recorded at Schwab. They examined, on a test basis, the evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures to obtain reasonable assurances that these statements are free of material misstatements. In conclusion, they found that the balance sheet and the statements of operations fairly represent the financial position of the Society and that the books have been kept in an orderly manner.
Finally, he noted that there is an asset that cannot be found in the balance sheet or in the Schwab account. His name is John Zeiter, and he has done such a good job in the 15 years that I have been an auditor.
Investment Committee Report presented by Andy Eggler
When the political winds clocked around 180 degrees at the beginning of 2017, a new optimism permeated corporate America and the investing public, an optimism fueled by the anticipation of a much friendlier regulatory business environment and of meaningful tax reform. Smelling an economic boom, stock markets took off like almost never before and have done very well throughout last year and into the first month of 2018.
A major part of the tax package is the new corporate tax rate of 21%, a huge drop from the old 35%. We may ask: "Why is this significant?" It is significant because S&P 500 companies hold an estimated 920 billion in untaxed cash abroad, of which 250 billion is expected to be repatriated. Surely, policymakers want the corporations to invest most of it in new plant and equipment which will positively impact employment, worker productivity, wages and, ultimately, Gross Domestic Output. However, some of the extra cash will without a doubt be spent on stock repurchase programs; this is beneficial to share prices and, by extension, the market as a whole. And then, earlier this week, the Federal Reserve, with its focus on employment and inflation, has validated the optimistic prognosis.
But at the same time, we have to be reminded of the possible pitfalls of a rapidly expanding and overheating economy.
While inflation has not been an issue for nearly a decade, it has now begun to rear its head. The benchmark 10yr Treasury Note, an excellent barometer of inflation expectations, is now trading at the highest yield in 4 years, in other words, long term interest rates rise as a consequence of rising inflation.
Our endowment portfolio has experienced steady growth throughout 2017 and has returned 11.33% on the invested portion against a backdrop of a 17.5% rise in the S&P 500 index. Keep in mind, though, our portfolio is primarily a mix of stock and bond funds while the S&P 500 is exclusively a stock index. The cash position is still large, a little too large for our liking, and we look forward to reducing it this year back to a level as mandated by our investment parameters.
Ruedi complimented Andy on his "golden touch" and thanked him.
Welfare Report presented by Ruedi Sandmeier
Ariana Ghelfi joined us in 2017, taking over the Welfare Committee. She will present her report next year.
We reported last year that a single woman, whose business selling books on Amazon has gone to zero, had pleaded for support paying her bills. We supported her initially with $1,000 in 2016.
Subsequently, she applied for support (Fürsorge) from the Swiss authorities, and we helped her with $1,500 to bridge her over until a response for this application came from Bern. Her application was eventually denied, and since the stories she told us were not really consistent and believable, we decided to end her support.
Scholarship Committee Report presented by John Andrew
Having noted that Susy Lutsky was in the audience, John expressed how extremely grateful he was to Susy for leaving things in perfect order when she retired.
The Scholarship Committee (Marianne Strotz, Susann Sandmeier, and John Andrew) is pleased to report that in 2017, the Society awarded $53,000 in scholarships to 15 young Swiss in Northern California. For comparison, in 2016 we made 11 awards for a total of $40,500.
Some details of our program this year include the following:
- The Committee received 18 applications (including six re-applicants) from which the Board made 15 awards, for a 83% acceptance rate.
- For the first time, we made three awards from the newly established Munz Fund. One award each was made from the Canonica and Amstutz Funds, and two from the Iselin Fund, with the remaining eight awards from the General Fund.
- In 2018 we will be in a position to offer a scholarship in the culinary or hospitality field.
- We did not make an award from the Isler Fund due to a low fund balance.
- As in the past two years, each award was supplemented with an additional $500 from the generous donation of the Scherer Family and their friends.
- The students are majoring in a diverse set of subjects.
- Five students are attending the University of California, four are at campuses of the California State University, and two are Ivy Leaguers.
With 2017's awards, the Society has now expended over $1 million in scholarships since the program's inception.
I express my sincere appreciation to Marianne and Susann for their support this year and for many years in helping to administer this program. Together we thank our members for their generosity that makes these scholarships possible.
Membership Committee Report, presented by Doug Twitchell
Doug assumed his responsibilities in the spring of 2017. Thanks to Carola Gutierrez-Gyger's helpful assistance, and her records being kept in good order, the transition was fairly seamless. The duties of the Membership Chairman as follows:
- Update the database on the Salesforce.com system. This is a service offered at no charge to charities and other non-profits. Donation information is entered as donations are received either by check or via PayPal. Information is received by email from Marianne Aubert and PayPal. Donations amounts are also confirmed periodically with the treasurer, John Zeiter.
- Handle the mailings to the membership several times a year as requested by the board.
- Active donor households or organizations for the past two years: 138
- Active donor households or organizations for the past four years: 212
- New households added since January 2017: 13
- All households donating since the fall 2017 mailing: 55
- Donation amounts between 2014 and 2017 (4 years):
- Large donation households:
- One donation of $10,000
- Two donations of $5,000
- Eight donations between $1,000 and $3,000
- Average donation amount excluding donations over $1,000: $120
Ruedi then asked our two young guests to introduce themselves and tell us about their studies.
Lillie Vogt studies political science and German at UC Berkeley. She plans to pursue her studies next year in Berlin.
Ethan Kogon-Schneider studies at UC Davis, namely the classics, Greek and Latin. He had an opportunity to spend time in Rome.
Both students are happy to have a chance to meet the board and SBS members and are very grateful for the awards.
President's Report by Ruedi Sandmeier
2017 was a very good year for us. Thanks to the legacy of Walter Munz, we were able to award the biggest amount to scholarships. For those who were not here last year, the Munz legacy was over half a million dollars, and it will be used for traditional scholarships and a culinary and hospitality scholarship.
Just yesterday, I got word that the estate of Betty Reber has finally closed at the probate court. Betty died in June 2015 and left us with 5% of her estate. Betty herself was British but her husband Robert, who died earlier, was Swiss, and he directed her to leave this 5% to us. We will in the next week get a check for close to $120,000. As neither Robert nor Betty left any instructions on how to use the money, the board has decided to use it both for welfare and scholarships.
Our traditional Senior Party and Spring Dance was attended by over 70 participants. It was a great party, not the least because we had raffle prizes of over $2,500 to give away. This year, we are trying something new: we will combine it with the Folklore Night of the Aelpler Gruppe, hoping that we can get the attendance back again to over 100 people. The date is Saturday, April 14.
I have an excellent board helping me to run the various tasks of our society. I hope you can honor that be re-electing the five members standing for re-election and confirm our two new board members. Our board works well together as a team, and I am honored to work with such a fine group.
At this point, are there any questions or comments about what you have heard?
Susy Lutsky raised a question concerning the combining of the four named funds into two funds. She was assured that this action does not impact the respective donors' specific instructions on how to allocate the awards (merit vs. financial need).
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. Five board members are up for re-election, and two board members, Ariana Ghelfi and Doug Twitchell, who joined us during the year need to be confirmed for a two-year term. Following Hans Surber 's decision to step down from his role as Auditor, we need to elect his replacement, Stefan Welter; we also need to re-elect Pius Kampfen for the same position. Brief bios of Ariana, Doug, and Stefan are on the tables.
Now it is time to hand over the meeting to Consul Andrea Köppel.
Re-election of present board members (for a 3-year term):
– Marianne Aubert, Secretary
– Daniel Eggen, Director at Large
– Andreas Eggler, Investments
– Ruedi Sandmeier, President
– John Zeiter, Treasurer
Election of board members who joined the board since the last annual meeting (for a 2-year term):
– Ariana Ghelfi, Welfare
– Douglas Twitchell, Membership
Election of Auditors (1-year term)
– Re-election: Pius Kampfen
– New: Stefan Welter
Each election was approved by acclamation.
Remarks by Consul Andrea Köppel
I am very pleased to be here tonight, and to bring you greetings from Consul General Tanner. I'm always impressed how active and engaged the President and board members are, and I thank you.
This brings the official meeting to a close. Do I hear a motion to adjourn?
With no further questions or comments from the audience, Andy Eggler, seconded by Marianne Strotz, made a motion to close the meeting.
Meeting closed at 6:50 PM.
(SBS members may request a written copy of the minutes by contacting the Secretary)