MINUTES OF THE 135th ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
FEBRUARY 7, 2020
Fior d'Italia Restaurant, San Francisco, California
The meeting was called to order at 6:10 PM.
Ruedi Sandmeier extended a warm greeting to everyone, with a special welcome to our guest, Consul Jean-Daniel Glauser. Tonight we have three recipients of our scholarship program, namely Fiona Beltman, Steven Grossi, and Janelle Terry as our guests. They may tell us a little about themselves later. Finally, we are happy to welcome former Board members Melanie Facen and Susy Lutsky, as well as Rita Plattner. Regretfully, Marianne Strotz, our former Vice President, at the last minute called to say she was unable to join us. Above all, thank you, our trusted members who have come to this meeting. Your generous contributions over the years are very much appreciated.
Our records show that we have 128 dues-paying members at this time. 10%, or 13 members, represent a quorum. In addition to 32 members in attendance, we received 18 proxy statements. We can therefore proceed with our Agenda.
Copies of the minutes of the 2019 Annual Meeting have been placed on each table. They are also posted on the SBS website. Are there any questions about the minutes? Andy Eggler made a motion to approve the minutes, seconded by Doug Twitchell.
Treasurer John Zeiter indicated that the P&L statement has been reviewed by our auditors, and then proceeded to read the details of the financial profit and loss statement and endowment balances.
Auditors Report, presented by Pius Kampfen
Pius Kampfen presented the report of the audit that he and Stefan Welter conducted for the period of January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019. During their examination, the auditors made sure that the funds 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, Pius noted that John Zeiter is keeping the books in an exemplary manner and deserves a medal.
Investment Committee Report presented by Andy Eggler
Following on remarks that he made one year ago, Andy commented on the state of the markets in 2019. The trade war with China notwithstanding, last year was pretty much uneventful for the American economy, uneventful in a good way. Steady real output growth, high consumer confidence, continuing historically low unemployment, rising wages in real terms, low interest rates, stable prices, a steady US dollar index and growing corporate profits, all of which translate into the hallmarks for economic stability. Against this backdrop of optimism, the Dow Jones Industrial Index advanced by 22.3%, the Nasdaq by 35.2%, and the S&P500 by 28.9%.
How did we at the SBS do? Well, our endowment grew by 18.7%, a performance that didn't quite match the major indices, by the way we never do, and that's because our portfolio has an international component and foreign equity markets did not do as well as ours. Some of our exchange traded funds own bonds and we keep relatively large cash position of nearly 25% of the investments portfolio. Bonds and money market funds are very safe but their returns are mediocre during periods of historically low interest rates.
Looking ahead, 2020 should be another decent year, and Andy feels optimistic based on corporate earnings released so far, a leading indicator for the business cycle. However the big unknown will be the impact of the coronavirus and the consequences to the world economy if it were to become a full-blown pandemic.
Ruedi thanked Andy for a job well done and his golden touch with our investments.
Welfare Report, presented by Carla Twitchell
Carla thanked the members present for their donations in support of elderly Swiss seniors and young people. This year we helped a young woman dealing with financial difficulties, until she decided to move to Oregon. We understand she has now returned to California. There was also an elderly man in a hospital who needed help but refused to ask for it. However, his devoted friends rallied around him to help. So far we have not been asked to step in. Carla is aware of other Swiss who struggle financially but manage to get by without assistance. She also receives requests from people who are not eligible.
Scholarship Committee Report, presented by Ariana Ghelfi
The Scholarship Committee (Susann Sandmeier, Ariana Ghelfi, and John Andrew) is pleased to report that in 2019, the Society awarded $72,000 in scholarships to 22 young Swiss in Northern California, of which 14 were re-applicants. For comparison, in 2018 we made 18 awards for a total of $54,000. The awards were disbursed from the General Fund and all named funds. This year we noticed that the focus of the studies was on the sciences and engineering.
Membership Committee Report, presented by Doug Twitchell
Doug handles several mailings per year, using our database provided at no cost by Salesforce.com. Looking at active donors in the past two years, the number is 128; this compares with 174 over the past four years. Doug also provided a recap of the donations by amount categories. He also mentioned that there might be a difference in donation totals between his records and John Zeiter's records because he adds the in-kind donations to his totals.
Ruedi then asked our three young guests to introduce themselves and tell us about their studies.
- Fiona Beltman is from the Napa Valley and a student of Biology at UC Berkeley.
- Steven Grossi, at St. Mary's University, studies Sociology, with a goal to go into Criminal Justice
- Janelle Terry is studying Management Science with a focus on Engineering at Stanford University.
All 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
Well, it was ten years ago that this assembly voted me in as president. So, a good time for a little review. In those ten years:
- The total we paid out in scholarships in those 10 years was $441,000
- Our endowment balance grew from $547,000 to $1,472,000, more than $900,000
- While our total expenses stayed flat at around $5,000
Now, if I were a politician and a stable genius, I would claim that all this is all my doing. I am no politician, so I give due where due is earned:
- First, the generosity of our Swiss community, which includes all of you
- The generosity of Silvia Iselin, Betty Reber and especially Walter Munz, who together donated or left us as inheritance totaling over $700,000
- The wise investments made by Andy Eggler
- The careful husbandry of our money by John Zeiter
These are the people who made it possible! I am just fortunate to have generous donors and my colleagues on the Board who help in selfless fashion.
Our traditional Senior Party and Spring Dance was combined again with the Folklore Night of the Aelpler Gruppe. This was a success as we had over 150 participants. We also continued our changed practice and gave a gift basket to all participants 90-years old and over. It was a great party, not the least because we had raffle prizes of over $2,500 to give away, but also because our raffle tickets sales amounted to $1,600. We want to thank all donors, including the Swiss Consulate, Ghirardelli Chocolates and several Swiss owned wineries.
As I said before, I have an excellent Board helping me to run the various tasks of our society. I hope you can honor that by confirming our Board members and our auditors. 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?
Since no matters to be voted on were submitted from the floor, we can now proceed to the elections. Under our By-Laws, the Board members are elected based on a system of rotation over a three-year period. Five Board members are up for re-election for three-year terms, and we also need to re-elect Pius Kampfen and Stefan Welter for the auditor positions.
Now it is time to hand over the meeting to Consul Jean-Daniel Glauser.
Re-Election of Board members for a three-year term:
– John Andrew, Scholarships
– Ariana Ghelfi, Scholarships
– Max Munz, Director-At-Large
– Susann Sandmeier, Scholarships
– Doug Twitchell, Membership
Re-Election of Auditors (1-year term)
– Pius Kampfen
– Stefan Welter
Each election was approved by acclamation. Mr. Glauser commented on the fact that this was a smooth and peaceful vote, unlike the contentious one that he conducted when he was posted in different consulate.
He also congratulated Ruedi for his ten-year anniversary at the head of this well-run organization.
Any questions or comments?
Justin Cox said he appreciates the work done by the SBS for the future of these students. The Swiss values of democracy will prevail in the end, which is all the more important in today's tough climate.
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 made a motion to close the meeting, seconded by John Zeiter.
Meeting closed at 6:45 PM.
(SBS members may request a written copy of the minutes by contacting the Secretary)