In Service: The Church Pension Fund Board
The Church Pension Fund (CPF) Board of Trustees has a legal responsibility to oversee CPF so that it will have sufficient assets to cover its obligations now and in the future.
Elected by General Convention, the CPF Board is composed of diverse professionals who are committed to the people and institutions that form our Church. They gather at least four times a year to listen, learn, discuss, challenge, and push CPG toward its vision and purpose. The board plays a critical role in our work, so we asked a few members to answer some of the questions we most frequently receive from the people we serve.
How does the CPF Board monitor the organization’s ability to meet its financial obligations?
Margaret A. Niles, Esq.
Chair, The Church Pension Fund Board of Trustees Finance Committee
Partner, K&L Gates LLP
At every meeting, the board reviews the financial position of CPF’s pension funds, and each line of business that comprises CPG. We also look carefully at CPF’s budget and how it is developed and monitored, with a view to ensuring that CPF is efficiently providing services and faithfully stewarding assets. It’s been interesting to see the impact of financial market volatility on assets. When the market is doing well, it’s tempting—but incorrect—to think that we have more than we need to cover our obligations. When the market dips, as it always does, we are reminded why taking a cautious approach to spending is necessary.
It’s our job to take a long-term view on the financial strength of CPG, and we work with outside experts on rigorous stress testing of CPF’s assets and liabilities to do that. By factoring in market volatility, new ordinations, and thousands of other data points that affect CPF’s assets and liabilities, these simulations help us understand the likelihood that CPF will have sufficient funds to cover known and expected liabilities—our pension and related benefit payments—10 years from now, 30 years down the road, and more.
At our September board meeting, we spent a lot of time working through the impact of market fluctuations on our portfolio. It was sobering to look at how changes in asset values affect the board’s confidence in CPF’s ability to meet obligations to pension plan participants in future years. This year, our confidence is pretty high, but last year, when markets faltered in the early days of COVID-19, our confidence level was lower. We have to plan for good and bad market returns, so we’re regularly looking at long-term financial results to make sure CPF is as strong, financially, as clients need it to be under shifting conditions.
The numbers we’re working with are large, but the liabilities and expectations of the people we serve are also large. Prudent financial planning requires discipline, and I’m honored to serve on a board that studies the long-term impacts of every decision we make.
How does the Audit Committee help the board in its oversight role?
Delbert C. Glover, PhD
Chair, The Church Pension Fund Board of Trustees Audit Committee
Vice President, DuPont (retired)
The Audit Committee provides oversight for CPG’s financial reporting and related internal controls. We work with external auditors to monitor CPG’s financial health. We also review and discuss the process used to identify, assess, and manage CPG’s key enterprise risks.
In recent years, we’ve spent considerable time discussing the strategies and mechanisms that CPG has put in place to protect personal and other confidential information from cybersecurity threats. It’s reassuring to know that CPG puts extensive thought and planning across the enterprise into preparing for potential incidents, including the tools and operating procedures to recover from a possible breach.
The Audit Committee stays informed about these and other risks by reviewing reports, asking questions, and drawing on the experience of CPG employees as well as the expertise of other professional organizations. In all of these ways, this committee plays an essential role in helping ensure that the board carries out its oversight responsibilities effectively.
How do the board and CPG keep the Church informed about the board’s decisions?
The Rt. Rev. Thomas James Brown
Chair, The Church Pension Fund Board of Trustees
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Maine
We recognize that people like to get their information in different ways, so CPG uses a variety of channels to inform the Church of important developments around the organization, including changes to benefit plans and CPG’s other products, services, and educational opportunities. Through letters, emails, newsletters, social media posts, webinars, phone conversations, conferences, and an excellent website, CPG does a comprehensive job of getting the word out on the decisions we as a board make. CPG folks are also out all over the Church, from visiting local parishes to Churchwide bodies, to listen, learn, and share.
We know people often need to hear something more than once to absorb its meaning, so CPG offers multiple opportunities to stay updated on our shared work. CPG’s annual report and its newsletter, CPG Connect, highlight the board’s major decisions. My Message from the Chair, which is available on CPG’s website, describes highlights of CPF board meetings. The Church Pension Fund’s Blue Book reports to General Convention, as well as an updated, stand-alone report that is always issued just before Convention, keep Church leadership informed. Of course, General Convention itself provides a wonderful opportunity to connect, which is why CPG has such a presence every triennium.
Comments? Questions? Concerns? CPG is listening. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org