PARSIPPANY, N.J. – For the first time in the 126-year history of this fraternal organization, the Ukrainian National Association’s highest governing body between quadrennial conventions did not meet in person, convening instead by videoconference and teleconference due to continuing restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The UNA General Assembly, which encompasses executive officers, auditors and advisors, met virtually on Monday and Tuesday, October 5-6, with members signing in from their respective locations across the United States as well as Canada.
General Assembly members plus the editor-in-chief of the UNA’s official publications, Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly, submitted written reports in advance of the meeting.
Updates on all aspects of the UNA’s activity were delivered by the three executive operating officers: President/Chief Executive Officer Stefan Kaczaraj, Chief Operations Officer/National Secretary Yuriy Symczyk and Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer Roma Lisovich.
Participating in addition to the operating officers were the three other executive officers: First Vice-President Gerald Tysiak, Second Vice-President Eugene Serba and Director for Canada Ewhen Osidacz.
Also attending were Auditing Committee members Luba Walchuk and Andrij Skyba (George Fedorijczuk was unable to participate), and Advisors Olya Czerkas, Nicholas Fil, Gloria Horbaty, Irene Jarosewich, Oksana Koziak, Michael Luciw, Julian Pishko, Bohdana Puzyk, Oksana Stanko, Lubov Streletsky and Andrij V.R. Szul. Editor-in-Chief Roma Hadzewycz also participated.
President/CEO Kaczaraj opened the meeting with a prayer and the “Pledge of Allegiance.” A moment of silence was observed in memory of Peter Serba, secretary of UNA Branch 173 for 66 years, who had passed away on September 12.
Following approval of the agenda and the minutes of the 2019 annual meeting of the UNA General Assembly, President/CEO Kaczaraj presented his report, noting that 2020 has been an unusual year due to COVID-19 and assuring General Assembly members that the UNA is following the guidelines of New Jersey state officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Our Home Office is open for business. But staff is on a staggered work schedule to ensure social distancing. This helps us restrict the number of people in the office at one time. Although we were all working remotely at first, our insurance operations employees have returned to the office. The publications staff continues to work, for the most part, remotely,” he explained. “The UNA has weathered many storms and challenges in our 126-year history and we will weather this challenge,” Mr. Kaczaraj added.
As regards the financial condition of the UNA, the president/CEO reported that in 2019 the UNA recorded another increase to its surplus, which as of December 31, 2019, was $11,287,000 (as compared with $11,021,000 as of December 31, 2018). The surplus has grown further during 2020 to $12,898,000.
Also notable in 2019 was another consecutive year of net profits. Total net income as of December 31, 2019, stood at $328,000 ($329,000 was recorded the prior year).
Mr. Kaczaraj reported that the UNA had planned to return to the annuity market in 2020 with an aggressive sales initiative, but due to the coronavirus this did not materialize to the projected level. Nonetheless, sales are performing better than in 2019, and both life insurance and annuities sales are up in 2020.
COO/National Secretary Symczyk presented a detailed report on sales of UNA life insurance policies and annuities, citing a significant uptick in sales of life insurance, both in terms of the number of policies sold and total face values of insurance coverage.
He went on to inform General Assembly members about the Business Continuity Plan implemented by the UNA in mid-March, when coronavirus restrictions went into effect. By June, the Home Office was transitioning to reopening, although there were limited hours and/or staggered scheduling. The precautionary measures instituted were intended to ensure that all employees stayed safe. Visits to the office by members, clients and guests are by appointment only in order to ensure social distancing, the COO explained.
Other topics discussed by Mr. Symczyk were: new life insurance illustration software for both agents and Home Office staff; agent recruitment; reformatting of applications and supporting documents for online/digital use; and development of new payment options, such as credit card charges and electronic fund transfers.
The COO noted that a Corporate Manual Committee has been formed to complete work on this companion document to the new UNA By-Laws that were approved in January.
Ms. Lisovich, the CFO/treasurer, presented a report she titled “Navigating Performance in a Pandemic” that encompassed a financial report for the first six months of 2020 and an investment analysis through September 30 of this year.
Noting that this has “truly been a challenging time,” she explained that the UNA, as an essential business, continued to serve its members during the coronavirus pandemic. “The UNA was able to respond quickly and efficiently to the crisis. It had a quick response framework which worked well and allowed the UNA to quickly adapt to new work protocols. The technology upgrades that were completed in January 2020 were crucial to this success,” Ms. Lisovich observed.
The CFO cited these positives during the period: an increase in life insurance sales compared to the second quarter of 2019, reflecting pandemic fears, as consumers wanted life protection; capital surplus position remained strong and increased as the absence of equities in the UNA’s investment portfolio allowed it to avoid the declines other insurers experienced; UNA cash flows, liquidity and leverage are healthy.
As regards what the UNA can expect in the second half of 2020, Ms. Lisovich said, “excess mortality claims and potential investment impairments will remain a focus as COVID-19-related cases and deaths may tick back up in the fall and winter.” She noted that the UNA is monitoring its general administration expenses very closely “due to the unpredictability of consumer behavior during the pandemic.”
Over all, the CFO reported, the UNA is having a good year with sales, revenue and net profit outperforming 2019.
All other General Assembly members had an opportunity to orally add to their reports during the annual meeting, as did the editor-in-chief of the UNA’s two weekly newspapers.
Ms. Hadzewycz noted the deaths of three esteemed former colleagues during 2020: Helen Smindak and Marta Kolomayets of The Weekly, and Raisa Rudenko of Svoboda (who had passed away just a few days before this meeting).
Reacting to the UNA president’s announcement that she was retiring after working “tirelessly for UNA for the last 43 years,” Ms. Hadzewycz took advantage of the opportunity to state: “I thank the Ukrainian National Association and all the people I have worked with for giving me this unparalleled opportunity to serve the Ukrainian community and the UNA’s members through the UNA’s two newspapers.”
During the General Assembly’s first day of meetings, it was reported that the Executive Committee had approved the composition of the Nominations Committee, a standing committee called for by the UNA’s recently adopted By-Laws. The members of that committee are: First Vice-President Tysiak, CFO/Treasurer Lisovich, Advisor Puzyk, and UNA members Roman Hirniak and Nicholas Diakiwsky.
Three standing committees of the General Assembly – Financial, Membership Outreach and Publications – met virtually during the second day of the annual meeting, either by teleconference or Zoom.
Financial Committee members are: Ms. Lisovich (chair), and Messrs. Kaczaraj, Tysiak, Serba, Skyba and Luciw.
The Membership Outreach Committee comprises: Mr. Symczyk (chair), Mss. Stanko, Streletsky, Horbaty, Koziak and Walchuk, and Messrs. Luciw and Fil.
The Publications Committee is composed of: Mss. Jarosewich (chair), Hadzewycz, Puzyk, Czerkas and Horbaty, and Messrs. Serba and Pishko.
All committees discussed their plans going forward and worked on separate charters delineating their missions, purposes, responsibilities and structures, and then reported back to the full General Assembly.
During the concluding discussion of the annual meeting, General Assembly members agreed that it would be beneficial to meet more often. As a result, it was decided that the body should meet semiannually (it is hoped that one of those meetings would be in person and the other virtual). Thus, the next meeting of the UNA General Assembly is expected to take place in the spring of 2021.