The Hartford Financial Services Group has seen a surge in sales of retirement plans to charitable and religious organizations prompting the insurance and wealth management company to add three faith-based investment fund families to help boost growth.
Defined contribution retirement plans have become more popular with nonprofit organizations such as churches and charities, spurring rapid growth in that segment of the retirement savings market for The Hartford. As a result The Hartford is adding investment options from the Timothy Plan, the Luther King Capital Management Aquinas Funds and the Ave Maria Mutual Funds to its lineup of 403(b), 401(a), 457 and 401(k) defined contribution retirement plans.
Faith-based investing is a branch of socially responsible investing, an investment area with $2.71 trillion in total assets under management—11% of the $25.1 trillion under professional management in the U.S., according to the Social Investing Forum, a trade organization.
David Kathman, a Morningstar fund analyst, said that religious funds are an area that has grown in the last 10 years, partly because there are more people investing in general, and in mutual funds in particular, and a wider range of people are investing.
“We are seeing increased demand for more socially responsible investments, in this case faith-based funds,” said Peter Moore, vice president of The Hartford's public sector retirement sales, in a press release. “Interest on the part of nonprofit organizations such as churches and charities in sponsoring retirement plans is growing tremendously. And people who work for nonprofit organizations and others are expressing interest in socially responsible investment strategies, including faith-based funds.”
The way that most faith-based funds work is that they screen out what they call “sin stocks” or companies that produce or offer services that go against religious beliefs, such as abortion, pornography, gambling, alcohol and tobacco.
The faith-based investing universe is made up of about 100 mutual funds with a value of about $31 billion, including the Ave Maria Mutual Funds, the Ave Maria Catholic Values Fund and the LKCM Aquinas Funds. They are all Catholic funds. But not all Catholic funds are equal and some ban more companies than others. For instance, the Timothy Plan Funds are uber-conservative, with an online “Hall of Shame” for a slew of companies with ties—even weak ones—to alcohol, pornography and tobacco.
“Investors in this market want to know that their dollars are not supporting companies whose activities or business practices violate their core beliefs,” Moore said. “Increasingly, retirement investors are applying their religious, social and community values when it comes to directing their investment dollars.”
The new faith-based funds are being offered to new retirement plan sponsors and their participants. Existing retirement plan sponsors and their participants can request faith-based funds as well, according to Moore.
The new funds being introduced by The Hartford are the Timothy Plan Large/Mid Cap Value Fund, the LKCM Aquinas Growth Fund, the LKCM Aquinas Value Fund, the Ave Maria Opportunity Fund, the Ave Maria Growth Fund, the Ave Maria Rising Dividend Fund, and the Neuberger Berman Socially Responsive Investment Fund, which employs social criteria as part of their investment discipline that includes “leadership in environmental concerns, diversity in the work force, progressive employment and workplace practices, and community relations.”
“The Hartford, as part of its efforts to offer retirement plans with open architecture and a wide diversity of investment offerings, is including faith-based funds to answer a chorus of demand by our customers,” said Moore.
This story has been reprinted with permission from Financial Planning.
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