MINUTES OF THE 131st ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
FEBRUARY 26, 2016
L'Olivier Restaurant, San Francisco, California
The meeting was called to order at 6:15 PM.
Ruedi Sandmeier extended a warm welcome to this year's guest of honor, Consul Sacha Steiner. He also welcomed all members present and honorary members Melanie Facen and Susy Lutsky; as well as Monika Ryser, former President of the Peninsula Swiss Club, a long-time supporter of SBS. In addition, he welcomed two recipients of the 2015 scholarship awards: Janelle Terry and Nicholas Strauli. Andy Eggler and Pius Kampfen could not be here due to the meeting date change.
Ruedi wanted to specially acknowledge all of the trusted members who have come to this meeting despite the change in date due to pre-Super Bowl festivities. He remarked that none of the board members seem to be football fans and could have predicted the traffic issues at our original date of February 5th. Thank you for your generous contributions over the years. We are pleased that you could join us tonight.
Our records show that we have 116 dues-paying members at this time. 10%, or 12 members, represent a quorum. In addition to 25 members present, we received 22 proxies; therefore we have a quorum and can proceed with our Agenda.
Copies of the minutes of the 2015 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 Melanie Facen.
Treasurer John Zeiter proceeded to read the details of the financial profit and loss statement and endowment balances. At year-end, the portfolio shows a net decrease of $48,800.
Footnotes to Treasurer's Report:
1. The Profit and Loss Statement Revenues includes the donations checks in the amount of $5,803, which were issued by donors in December, but were received and deposited into the Schwab General Fund account in January 2016.
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 $2,660 includes revenue from the annual meeting of $1,160 and the spring party of $1,500.
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 $40,000, which included $6,500 from Scherer Family funds, and from the named funds as follows, Amstutz Fund $2,500; Canonica Fund $1,500; Silvia and Jacques Fund $5,000 (2 scholarships) and none from Willy Isler Fund. The total amount distributed was $49,000.
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. On the occasion of the Ruedi and Nelly Scherer Farewell Event of August 2014 the Society received 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 of $23,440. The Scherers' instruction is to increase each scholarship award by $500 until funds have been fully disbursed. In 2015, $6,500 was given to 13 scholarship recipients ($500 each). This leaves a balance of $16,940.
Hans Surber presented the report of the audit that he and Pius Kampfen conducted for the period January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015. 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 prepared by Andy Eggler, presented by Lisa Brinkmann
Due to the rescheduling of the meeting, Andy could not be present. However, his wife, Lisa, presented the report on his behalf and with much enthusiasm.
2015 was a bruising year for investors.
A long bull market, which began in March of 2009, fueled by an expansive monetary policy, had run its course and came to an end in late August of last year. The signs for this to happen were there throughout 2015, most notably a business contraction in China, Brazil and other developing countries, as well as plunging oil and commodity prices. In addition, the effects of a strengthening US dollar weighed heavily on American companies dependent on exports and international trade.
The major indexes were badly battered in the second half of 2015, some with corrections in excess of 10%. Although there was a rebound in the 4th quarter, the market ended the year more or less flat.
- The Dow Jones 30 Industrial Index finished the year down 2.23%, and the S&P 500 down .73%.
The only shining light was the Nasdaq, which closed the year up 5.5%, mainly because of the meteoric rise in share prices of a handful of companies, among them Google, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon.
The total return of our portfolio was down 1.62%, which we can attribute to two factors:
1. Our exposure of approximately 10% to international equities. European and Asian stock markets performed significantly worse than the American counterparts.
2. Our investments in mutual funds. It is important to note that during a big market sell off, mutual fund shares decline not only because of the drop of the underlying equity values but also because of the enormous outflow of money from the fund. The bigger the outflow, the bigger the drop in the share price. This is exactly what happened in August.
We are still a bit overweight in cash, which is a good thing considering the current bear market conditions. It's always smart to have cash ready to be spent when opportunities present themselves.
As such, the portfolio is in good condition, asset allocations conform to the investment guidelines.
Ruedi Sandmeier commented that Andy has the "golden touch".
Welfare Report presented by Ruedi Sandmeier
For the past several years we provided some financial support to a man on permanent disability, who was extremely grateful for our help; unfortunately, he passed away in the fall, as reported by his brother. We initially had a request from a woman whom we have helped in a small way in the past, to augment her pension and support from Switzerland. However, after receiving the first check, she decided she does not need our help after all. However, we continued to send her a Christmas present. At the moment we have no one who needs our financial support.
Scholarship Committee Report presented by John Andrew
The Scholarship Committee (Marianne Strotz, Susann Sandmeier, and John Andrew) is pleased to report that in 2015, the Society awarded $49,000 in scholarships to 13 young Swiss in Northern California. 2015 was a great year!
Some details of our program this year include the following.
- The Committee received 21 applications, from which the Board made 13 awards.
- Ten of the students who applied were re-applicants.
- An award from last year was completed this year, based upon the request of one student who requested such a deferral.
- Awards were made from three of the named funds—Amstutz, Canonica, and Iselin—with the remainder of the awards from the General Fund.
- Most noteworthy, each award was supplemented with an additional $500 from the generous donation of the Scherer Family and their friends.
- The awardees are studying a diverse range of majors, e.g. Music, Medicine, Engineering, and the Sciences.
- The students also represent a wide range of institutions, including many CSUs and UC’s, Stanford (two students), Wesleyan, and Dartmouth.
- The recipients of the named scholarships are the following.
- Amstutz: Emma Smith, USC, Computer Engineering and Science
- Canonica: Jynel Gularte, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Agribusiness
- Iselin: Nicholas Strauli, UCSF, Biomedical Science, and Janelle Terry, Stanford, undeclared.
For the second consecutive year, an award was not made from the Isler Fund in 2015 due to a low fund balance; we hope to make an award from this fund in 2016.
In closing, John thanked Marianne and Susann 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.
Ruedi then asked our two young guests to introduce themselves and tell us about their studies.
Nicholas Strauli is studying for his PhD at UCSF in biomedical science, in particular the immune system. He is extremely appreciative of the financial help we provide.
Janelle Terry loves Stanford, where she is in her first year. Major undeclared so far. The scholarship award helps buy the books.
Membership Committee Report presented by Carola Gutierrez-Gyger
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), with the help of Aaron, her husband.
Total active donors (have donated since 11/2014): 116
- Return donors (are active, but had not donated since 2013 or earlier): 13
- New member households: 4
Inactive donors (last donation from 11/2013 to 11/2014): 30
Our membership has decreased slightly, due to a greater number of donors becoming inactive than new members donating. Last year we had 174 active households. The decrease is due to the 30 households which became inactive and about 30 one-time contributors from the Scherer party. We ask members to contact family and friends regarding making a donation to support our efforts to increase our membership.
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President's Report by Ruedi Sandmeier
2015 was a very positive year for our society. We continue to have our core supporters who help us pay our scholarship recipients with generous stipends. In addition, we received notification from two estates that we have been named as beneficiaries in the wills: Betty Reber, who lived in Sunnyvale, and Walter Munz, former president of the Golden Gate Swiss Club, who lived in San Francisco. Since both estates are in probate, we do not know yet the financial outcome of these legacies.
Over 80 participants attended our traditional Senior Party and Spring Dance. 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 by re-electing the member standing for re-election.
We have not been able to reverse the declining trend in membership but we need to bring a younger generation into 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. One board member is up for re-election, as well as the two auditors.
Now it is time to hand over the meeting to Consul Sacha Steiner.
Remarks by Consul Sacha Steiner
I'm honored to represent Consul General Hans-Ulrich Tanner at the 131st Annual Meeting. Before I start, let me say hello from Bern and introduce myself. I've been working for the government for 18 years and transferred from the Shanghai consulate last year. Thank you to the board for the great work you do. The Consulate really appreciates the cooperation we receive from the SBS. I should mention that we are seeing more and more cases of citizens needing help.
Our office is working very hard to implement our move to Pier 17 on the Embarcadero by July 1st. We will be next door to the Exploratorium. Swissnex and the Swiss Business Hub will join us, as well as the Swiss Tourism office, which is giving up its office in Los Angeles.
Now let’s proceed with the re-election of one board member to a three-year term, and two Auditors to a one-year term:
– Marianne Strotz, Vice-President
– Hans Surber, Auditor
– Pius Kampfen, Auditor
Approval of each election was done by acclamation.
Ruedi Sandmeier expressed his appreciation to Mr. Steiner for conducting the elections so efficiently and for the spirit of cooperation and assistance demonstrated by the Swiss Consulate. He remarked that during the 1960's the Board was very fractured, which resulted in battles among the directors and officers. Thankfully, this is in the past and we have great cooperation within the SBS and the Consulate staff.
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This brings the official Meeting to a close. Do I hear a motion to adjourn?
With no questions or comments from the audience, motion was made by John Zeiter, seconded by Aaron Gutierrez, to close the meeting.
Meeting closed at 6:50 PM.
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Subsequent to the meeting, on March 15, 2016, Board Members unanimously voted to re-elect Marianne Strotz to a three-year term as Vice President.
(SBS members may request a written copy of the minutes by contacting the Secretary)