A RECENT COLUMN in The Wall Street Journal observed, “Today, every occupant of every C-suite is trying to figure out what they’re willing to throw overboard as the economic storm spawned by the pandemic is swamping their ships. Businesses that were planning to help save the world are now simply saving themselves.” The May 6 column, titled “Sustainability was Corporate America’s Buzzword. This Crisis Changes That,” further noted, “Entities from one-cell organisms to multinational conglomerates shut down everything except what they need to survive.”
No wonder people are worried. Today, many “C-suites” are in crisis, and many executives are reaching for drastic solutions.
Not so with the Knights of Columbus. Sustainability was never just a buzzword with us.
Consider the April 6 report released by Standard and Poor’s, titled “Ranking North American Life Insurance Companies, Strongest to Weakest.” S&P reviewed its ratings of hundreds of life insurance companies in North America to determine how well positioned they are to withstand the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
S&P ranked only six companies in the top category, and the Knights of Columbus is one of them.
This level of financial strength does not magically appear overnight. It is the result of consistent and sustained corporate governance to do what is best for our brother Knights and their families in a prudent and professional way. It involves decades of determined effort to maintain both a superior level of capital adequacy and a low risk exposure as the best protection against financial storms.
We continue to have more than $100 billion of insurance in force protecting the financial future of our Catholic families. That is an awesome responsibility, and it is guided by our commitment to provide “insurance by brother Knights for brother Knights.” Again, our goal is not corporate profit but what is best for our brother Knights and their families.
Pope Francis has urged Catholics to take up what he calls “an ethics of fraternity.” Such ethics have been our guiding light for more than a century.
As I have said many times, there were already insurance companies in Connecticut in Father McGivney’s day. He could easily have referred his parishioners to these companies. But our founder didn’t want business as usual; he wanted something different and something distinctly Catholic — a Catholic fraternity that would transform men into a committed brotherhood.
That is what Father McGivney founded, and that is what we continue today; you might say that we are very traditional. At the same time, we have made many changes, especially during the last several years, to make our insurance program stronger, more competitive and better positioned to withstand today’s challenges.
We have undertaken a major restructuring and enhancement of our information technology department, reorganized and strengthened our insurance field force of more than 1,100 general and field agents, and have brought greater efficiency and productivity to our business processing departments and customer service.
Given the Supreme Council’s proximity to the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak in New York City, we took action before most companies to protect the health of our employees and the continuity of our operations by adopting a remote work plan. That transition went forward in an exemplary manner — as did the work of our insurance agents as they, too, transitioned to a new operating model demanded by social distancing.
At the same time, we developed IT and procedural solutions to hold virtual state conventions and online exemplifications of our new ceremonial. We also implemented an emergency church loan program for Catholic dioceses facing financial crisis and a multimillion-dollar food assistance program through our Leave No Neighbor Behind initiative.
No one can predict what the future may bring. As the days ahead will call for fortitude and continued vigilance, we will remain true to the principles that have served our Order so well in past.
But above all, we have confidence in the providential care of the Lord of history, just as we have recourse to Our Lady, that gentle and glorious “Star of the Sea,” who for over two millennia has guided so many safely home.
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