As a difficult year comes to a close and we begin anew, I wanted to reach out with a simple message of hope. Amid the loss of life, social isolation and economic hardship caused by COVID-19, the people and organizations that make up the Catholic Church remain strong and devoted. The Church has survived countless crises. Although we still face many challenges, we will survive this one too.
At CBIS, we are grateful for the trust our investors placed in us in 2020, and proud of the high level of service we provided throughout this tumultuous period. However, we also understand the heavy economic toll the events of the past year have taken on Catholic institutions. At the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, we vowed that CBIS would not only weather the turbulence but emerge stronger and better equipped to help our investors fulfill their financial goals and advance their missions.
As 2021 begins, we are well positioned to make good on that pledge. Our investors rely on CBIS to protect the capital that ensures their financial stability and produce the investment returns needed to fund their operations—all in a manner consistent with their Catholic faith. In a volatile market, we delivered on those commitments. Our competitive returns were rooted in part in our dedication to sound risk management and investor communication. Throughout the crisis, we have remained in close contact with our investors, counseling them on the potential pitfalls of intemperate reactions and advising them to stay the course with their long term-strategies.
The success of this approach helped us reach more Catholic institutions and continue to grow as a firm. Today we manage more than $9 billion in assets for over 800 Catholic institutions around the world. That includes our CBIS Global Funds platform, which surpassed $1 billion in assets in 2020. CBIS Global has grown steadily since its 2008 launch in conjunction with the opening of our Rome office, and now serves investors spanning 11 countries through both fixed income and equity strategies. A key milestone in our global efforts, our active ownership program led its first UK resolution in 2011, in coalition with investors from the U.S., UK, and Europe.
Recognizing the challenges facing Catholic institutions worldwide, CBIS took proactive steps to further upgrade the service we provide to our investors. For example, our relatively small firm hired eight new professionals, with all but one directly supporting our investors or advancing our active ownership initiatives on the Impact & Justice team.
These actions were just the latest steps in a long-term effort to enhance value for our investors. As part of that process, we have worked with our governing bodies and partners—including our sub-advisers and our transfer agent, BNY Mellon—to wring every possible efficiency out of our operational model. However, these ongoing discussions suggest we might be reaching the limits of what we can accomplish under our current operational structure. For that reason, we are considering new approaches and solutions. It is premature to share details, but you can be assured that any changes we make will be designed to:
- Extend our reach to a larger number of Catholic organizations
- Maintain our standard of strong investment performance
- Enhance the CBIS client experience
- Upgrade our technology infrastructure
Any new solution we pursue also will be aimed at freeing up time and money that can be devoted to our charism of advancing our Catholic principles through our investment decisions and active ownership work. The events of 2020—including the suffering caused by COVID-19 and the social unrest that erupted over racial injustice—reinforced the importance of this mission.
Like all of you, we were shocked by the police killing of George Floyd, and began looking within to better understand the role we should play in fighting racial discrimination. We are actively seeking out the right partners to lead CBIS in a period of prayer, reflection and discussion on this critical issue. Insights from our discernment will guide our path forward as a firm.
However, we have not waited to take meaningful action. While CBIS has always engaged our sub-advisers and other external partners on diversity issues, we took a more focused and deliberate approach to these discussions in 2020. Additionally, although we are proud of our firm’s gender diversity, we recognize the need to be more inclusive. CBIS is currently in the process of awarding four newly created internships to students of color. The immediate goals of this program are to further increase the diversity of our firm and create new opportunities for people who are underrepresented in investment management. Over the long term, we hope the talented individuals who get their start through CBIS internships will go on to act as evangelists throughout our industry on the importance of ethical investing.
In the year ahead, I will have more to report on developments at CBIS across these different areas. In the meantime, know that I understand the challenges you face and will continue working tirelessly to enhance the value we deliver to you, our investors, and drive positive change in accordance with Catholic social teaching.
On behalf of everyone at CBIS, I wish you a healthy and happy 2021.
Jeffrey A. McCroy