SBS Swiss Benevolent Society
of San Francisco

FEBRUARY 20, 2015
L'Olivier Restaurant, San Francisco, California

The meeting was called to order at 6:15 PM.

President's Greeting

Ruedi Sandmeier extended a warm welcome to this year's guest of honor, Consul Raoul Incerti who will later conduct the re-election of board members. He also welcomed all members present, his predecessors Ernest Plattner and Hermann Attinger, and several former board members, in particular Melanie Facen and Susy Lutsky, as well as Sandra Scanferla, President of the Peninsula Swiss Club. In addition, he welcomed three recipients of the 2014 scholarship awards: Samantha Coate, Nicholas Strauli, and Morgan Smith. Consul General Hans-Ulrich Tanner sends his regards, he is vacationing.

Our records show that we have 174 dues-paying members at this time. 10%, or 17 members, represent a quorum. In addition to 40-plus members present, we received 15 proxies, therefore we have a quorum and can proceed with our Agenda.

Copies of the minutes of the 2014 Annual Meeting have been placed on each table. They are posted on the SBS website. A motion to approve the minutes was made by John Zeiter, seconded by Andy Eggler.


Treasurer's Report

Treasurer John Zeiter proceeded to read the details of the financial profit and loss statement and endowment; at year-end the portfolio shows a net increase of $49,294 over December 32, 2013.

Footnotes to Treasurer's Report:

1. The Profit and Loss Statement Revenues includes the donations checks in the amount of $4,465, which were issued by donors in December, but were received and deposited into the Schwab General Fund account in January 2015.

2. The Endowment Balance comprises of five separate cash and investment accounts for each of General and Scholarship Funds listed. All cash and investments funds are separate and are independently managed for performance.

3. Reinvested dividend income are shown for revenue received, and are included in each account’s year-end value balance.

4. Events income of $2,736 includes revenue from the annual meeting of $1,080 and the spring party of $1,656.

5. Additional capital funds were received from Silvia Iselin in 2011 and at her request the funds were deposited into the existing Iselin Scholarship Fund. The scholarship fund was renamed the Silvia and Jacques Iselin Scholarship Fund. Two scholarships were awarded this year from this fund.

6. The Scholarships were awarded as follows: General Fund $27,500 and from the named funds as follows, Amstutz Fund $3,000; Canonica Fund $1,900; Silvia and Jacques Fund $4,500 (2 scholarships) and none from Willy Isler Fund. The total amount distributed was $36,900.

7. All Contributions/Donations amount received from membership dues and memorial donations are distributed 100% for scholarship awards or merit awards to support needy students in pursuing their goals in achieving degrees in their choice of career.

8. The Ruedi and Nelly Scherer Farewell Event of August 2014 resulted in the Society receiving donations in the amount of $13,440 from their friends and acquaintances. In addition, the Scherers gave $10,000 to be distributed over the next 4 years for scholarship awards for a grand total have been fully disbursed.

Auditors Report

Hans Surber presented the report of the audit that he and Pius Kampfen conducted for the period January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014. During their examination, the auditors made sure that the five funds 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 by Andy Eggler

Andy began with a little bit of a historical perspective of the financial markets today and some potential risks. In late 2008, during the height of the financial crisis the Federal Reserve lowered short-term interest rates to zero percent, in an effort to supply huge amounts of reserves to slow the economic decline and stop the bleeding of the stock market.

Investors quickly realized that returns from CD's, Treasury Bills and other short-term vehicles had now dropped to nearly nothing. As a result, large numbers of people, including retirees dependent on bond interest, began to turn their attention to Equities, notably to the dividend yield-paying variety and soon, in early 2009, finally with light at the end of the tunnel, a new dawn for stocks had begun, in other words a bull market got underway, one of historic proportions and which is still going on to-date.

Andy said he would be remiss not to mention the potential pitfalls. Extended bull markets carry with them the risk of investor complacency and the belief that markets will quickly rebound from pullbacks caused by global turmoil. And let's not forget, we now live in a new regulatory environment. The Dodd-Frank legislation is now the law and, make no mistake, sets the tone for steep and painful corrections.

You all want to know how the SBS endowment portfolio performed in 2014. Well, we did not beat the indices but we didn't do poorly either. Our total return, defined as the securities price appreciation plus dividends and interest plus capital gains distributions, yielded 11.4%. This compares with the S&P 500 Index at 14% for the year and the Dow Jones 30 Industrials at 12.4%. We still have a sizeable cash position, larger than mandated by the guidelines and we can debate whether more of it should be invested to boost our TR. However, let's not forget, more cash translates into more cushion when that pullback hits the market.

2014 was a year to ride the tide... as the proverb goes "a rising tide lifts all boats".

Ruedi Sandmeier commented that 11.4% is remarkable. Thank you, Andy!

Scholarship Committee Report presented by John Andrew

The Scholarship Committee (Marianne Strotz, Susann Sandmeier, and John Andrew) is pleased to report that in 2014, the Society awarded $36,900 in scholarships to 15 young Swiss in Northern California.

Some details of our program this year include the following.

  • The Committee received 24 applications, from which the Board made 16 awards.
  • Nine of the students who applied were re-applicants.
  • Subsequent to the award decisions, two changes were made.
    • One applicant—a longtime beneficiary of the Society—declined his award, because he gained full-time employment in his chosen field of nursing, here in San Francisco, foregoing further studies.
    • Another student requested that we defer a portion of her award until next year, to which the board has agreed, contingent upon her continued good scholastic standing.
  • Awards were made from three of the named funds—Amstutz, Canonica, and Iselin—with the remainder of the awards from the General Fund.
  • The awardees are studying a diverse range of majors, e.g. Neurobiology, Music, and International Relations.
  • The students also represent a wide range of institutions, from Sonoma State to Stanford.
  • The recipients of the named scholarships are pursuing their studies at the following institutions:
    • Amstutz: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Agribusiness
    • Canonica: UCSF, Biomedical Science
    • Iselin: one student at Arizona State University, Nursing; one student at UC Santa Cruz, Software Engineering
  • An award was not made from the Isler Fund in 2014 due to a low fund balance; we expect to make an award from this fund in 2015.

In closing John thanked Marianne and Susann for making the committee report last year in his absence, and for their excellent and dedicated work this year in support of our scholarship program. Most of all, we deeply appreciate our membership for their generous donations and as well for entrusting the board with the investment of those donations in the next generation of Swiss-Americans.

Welfare Report presented by Ruedi Sandmeier

We continue to support one person financially, as he is permanently on disability; we also gave him and one other person Christmas presents.

As we reported last year, we helped a Swiss woman who is separated from her (American) husband and had been a stay-at-home mother for over twenty years. We provided for a lawyer to sue the husband for spousal and child support, which the court granted. We also guaranteed her rent; she moved out last April, a month later than her lease, and unfortunately left a mess and lots of damage, so that we did not get back our deposit. The husband was ordered by the court to pay us back the lawyer fees of $5,000. So far, he paid $200, then stopped. We have now involved a debt collection agency, so far without success! Overall, this case has been a very unsavory story, and we made changes in our decision process.

Last year, we reported on an elderly couple in the North Bay; the husband died in 2014. We helped the surviving spouse to deal with all issues, and finally, a living trust was found and things got settled. This is a non-financial assistance as the couple was well off financially.

In August, Ruedi met with Mrs. Daniella Boschetti, responsible for welfare issues for the Swiss Abroad in Berne, who was visiting in San Francisco. This was a very informative meeting and it is helping us and the Swiss authorities to work even better together!

Membership Committee Report presented by Ruedi Sandmeier

Unfortunately, Carola Gutierrez-Gyger fell ill and was not able to present the report in person.

As membership chair Carola updates our database with donation and contact information, as well as sending out three mailings per year. There are currently 8 active Organizations, and 174 Active Households. 1/3 of these household have donated at least once per year in the last 2 years, the remaining 2/3 donated once on the last 2 years. We had 38 new members make donations this last year, about half of those were introduced to SBS by the Scherer family fundraising event.

We accept donations online via Paypal, and more members have taken advantage of this convenient payment method over the last year compared to the previous year. While our membership has increased compared to last year, we ask members to contact family and friends regarding making a donation to support our efforts.

Ruedi then asked our three young guests to introduce themselves and tell us about their studies.

Samantha Coate is enrolled at St. Mary's College, studying education and history to become a teacher. She participates in the "Teachers for Tomorrow" program and volunteers in Oakland.

Morgan Smith studies at UC Santa Cruz, majoring in computer science. He's a member of the Student Governing Board.

Nicholas Strauli is in 4th year at UCSF, studying biomedical science, in particular the immune system.

* * * * * * * *

President's Report by Ruedi Sandmeier

2014 was a very positive year for our society. The outstanding event was the decision by Nelly and Ruedi Scherer to ask their guests at their farewell party to donate to our society in lieu of gifts. To top it, the Scherers also matched donations by their guests. With this largesse, we received over $23,000 and several new members! Thank you again, Nelly and Ruedi! We hope that your return to Switzerland was a success.

Our traditional Senior Party and Spring Dance was attended by over 80 participants. It was a great party, not least because we had raffle prices 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 be re-electing all the members standing for re-election. We still have an opening on the board: if you are interested or know someone, I'd like to hear that.

We have been able to reverse the declining trend in membership; this is great news but more needs to be done to bring a younger generation to our society. One idea (brilliant) is to encourage the present members to recruit their children as well as younger acquaintances to join our society.

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 Directors are elected based on a system of rotation over a three-year period. Six board members are up for re-election, as well as the two auditors.

Now it is time to hand over the meeting to Consul Raoul Incerti.

Remarks by Consul Raoul Incerti

I'm honored to represent Consul General Hans-Ulrich Tanner at the 130th Annual Meeting. It's impressive that the members of the society have been supporting it for so many years. As many of you know, there has been a Consular presence in San Francisco for over 150 years. In 1900, we already had 10,000 Swiss in California; this compares with 32,000 Swiss in our 13-states territory at this time.

Our office is working very hard to implement our move to Pier 17 on the Embarcadero next March. We will be next door to the Exploratorium. Swissnex and the Swiss Business Hub will join us, as well as the Swiss Tourism office.

Now let’s proceed with the re-election of six board members to a three-year term, and two Auditors to a one-year term:

  – Ruedi Sandmeier, President
  – John Zeiter, Treasurer
  – Marianne Aubert, Secretary
  – Dan Eggen, Director At Large
  – Andreas Eggler, Investment Committee
  – Carola Gutierrez-Gyger, Membership Committee

  – Hans Surber, Auditor
  – Pius Kampfen, Auditor

Approval of each election was done by acclamation.

Ruedi Sandmeier expressed his appreciation to Mr. Incerti for conducting the elections so efficiently and for the spirit of cooperation and assistance demonstrated by the Swiss Consulate.

* * * * * * * *

With no questions or comments from the audience, motion was made by Hermann Attinger, seconded by John Zeiter, to close the meeting. Meeting closed at 6:55 PM.

* * * * * * * *

In a private meeting immediately following the Annual Meeting, all board members present gathered to re-elect the directors and officers (Ruedi Sandmeier, John Zeiter and Marianne Aubert), who retain their existing role on the board.

(SBS members may request a written copy of the minutes by contacting the Secretary)

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Swiss Benevolent Society
Pier 17, Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94111
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