Socially Responsible Investing with Stewardship Foundation

September 2, 2016 | | News

When Superstorm Sandy knocked out the electricity in her home, Sue Goodman sought refuge at her church, Morrow Memorial UMC in Maplewood. The building acted as a community center for neighborhood residents affected by the storm, and for Goodman, a vital workspace managing a portfolio for AGP Asset Management, a large Dutch pension fund. She didn’t know it at the time, but the safe haven she worked from would soon lead to her new role as Interim Executive Director of The United Methodist Stewardship Foundation of Greater New Jersey.

With her Wall Street days behind her after her 2013 early retirement, Goodman joined the board of The United Methodist Stewardship Foundation of GNJ in 2014 to review foundations across the country and take their best practices to help GNJ’s foundation become best in class, keeping the commitment to grow GNJ church assets for ministry. A year later, after reviewing proposals from several asset management companies, Wespath Investment Management emerged as the best option aligned with the strategic plan goals of GNJ from an investment return and administrative support perspective.

As the investment management division of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of The United Methodist Church and the largest faith-based investor in the U.S. managing over $20 billion, Wespath invests using United Methodist social principles in compliance with the Book of Discipline. That makes the move to Wespath a natural one, as the organization does not invest in companies that produce alcohol and tobacco, operate sweat shops or give executives large bonuses while employees are laid off. Wespath has achieved competitive financial returns and is rated as a top 10 social investor in the U.S. In 2006, Wespath became the only faith-based bounding signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI), which it helped co-author.

“I’m excited about laying strong ground work to build upon and grow resources to help GNJ,” said Goodman. “I see a lot of potential.”

In July 2015, GNJ’s Director of Stewardship and Spiritual Visioning, Rev. Dr. Rich Hendrickson, who had been developing and growing stewardship in GNJ churches for nearly a decade, assumed the role of the foundation’s executive director. Under his leadership, the Foundation exceeded $34 million in assets.

“I am pleased that we are investing through Wespath because I believe it will further enhance the assets of participating churches,” Hendrickson said. In July, Hendrickson returned to his roots in Ocean Grove and began his new appointment as pastor of St. Paul’s UMC.  Goodman was appointed as the new Interim Executive Director and will be expanding the business model and using the foundation as a platform to actively serve GNJ churches.

A graduate of Marquette University with an MBA from Rutgers, Goodman grew up in Washington, D.C. She interned on Capitol Hill and quickly realized her interest lied not in politics but in numbers.

After college, Goodman worked in a bank’s controllers department before getting into credit analysis and approving companies for loans. For five years she worked for MetLife in their fixed income bond group and then the derivative market. From there, Goodman received an offer to work for a bond rating agency, specializing in corporate debt and serving as a senior director for over five years. In 2000, the Dutch pension fund APG hired Goodman to analyze bonds in a wide range of industries including paper and forest products, metals and mining, retail, consumer products, and automotive. Years of experience equipped Goodman with the confidence to accept a new challenge with AGP as a portfolio manager to build and manage a timberland portfolio of $1 billion. This position led to extensive globetrotting to places such as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Mozambique and Vietnam.

Now Goodman begins a new enterprise, taking her experience from Wall Street and around the world to serve the church in Greater New Jersey.

“The foundation doesn’t just offer the investment management side of things, we want to work with member churches on stewardship education, managing existing resources well, and being good stewards of what we already have,” Goodman said. She added, “We want to work with churches on financial management education as well as financial literacy education for their community members.”

“The Stewardship Foundation currently serves more than 60 churches with their long-term investments,” said Goodman. “Those investments offer good returns and are managed so that the money is invested in full compliance with the socially responsible requirements of the conference.” Additionally, Wespath has already invested in New Jersey through loans to a charter school in Newark and an affordable housing project in Merchantville.

The Foundation provides churches with the opportunity to invest with lower fees and low margins through Wespath.  They seek to provide a safe place for churches to invest that’s true to Methodist principles. To date, 17 Methodist foundations are invested with Wespath.

Greater New Jersey churches are embracing the new direction of the Foundation.  In April, Mount Pleasant UMC in Millville suffered a catastrophic fire and have since invested their insurance proceeds with Wespath. In July, Island Heights UMC invested $200,000 with the Stewardship Foundation. Most recently, the Centenary Fund and Preachers’ Aid Society have also moved their investments to Wespath through the Foundation.

For more information about how your congregation can invest through the United Methodist Stewardship Foundation of Greater New Jersey, strengthen your congregation’s stewardship, or to attend a regional meeting to hear the Wespath story, contact Sue Goodman at sgoodman@gnjumc.org