The annual update from the Chief Executive of Christian Savings, Dan Mazengarb, for 2023.

The tale of Christian Savings in the 2023 financial year has had more twists and turns than a cheap garden hose. Whilst we reached the finish line in a strong position ahead of budget, our wins this year were harder fought than anticipated.

The first half started with a bang as lending soared rapidly, demanding a huge effort from our team, who worked tirelessly for the many churches and charities applying for finance. Our year-end (31 August 2023) lending target of $235 million was reached before we had even finished putting up our Christmas trees in December. Basking in the glow of this strong growth sustained us through the wet and gloomy summer that never really arrived.

Tragedy struck as we tipped into the second half when we learned that our beloved Lending Manager, Janice Tay, lost her husband in a car accident just five weeks before expecting the first child of their marriage. The blow struck our staff and clients alike as we collectively felt the pain of seeing someone we loved lose such a significant part of their life. I was deeply moved by the love shown by our clients. Jan remarked that the feeling of support from our borrowers (and our Board) stood in stark contrast to what she might have received when working in the corporate sector. This display of care was timely for the new staff who joined Christian Savings this year, of which there were many. It has been a privilege to welcome a new CFO, Operations Manager, Project Manager, Marketing Manager, interim Lending Manager and EA over the past six months.

In the midst of grieving Jan’s loss, we found ourselves in an epic arm wrestle over interest rates. Whilst the Governor was ratcheting up the OCR in the war against inflation, we were doing our best to shelter borrowers from the pain of skyrocketing interest rises. However, the longer we held back our rate increases for borrowers, the faster we lost ground as our primary cost of doing business (being the interest we pay depositors) rose at an outstanding pace. Managing the tension between the best interests of our borrowers and the financial sustainability of our organisation tested the mettle of Senior Management and the Board. This, too, came at a strange season of stagnation in the growth of our deposits, which saw us restricting our lending pipeline to ensure a sensible level of liquidity at a time when Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse were making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

I’m pleased to report that we have finally turned the last bend for this year, being a whistle-stop tour through the main cities, delivering our annual conference on fruitful governance for churches and charities. This was a fantastic event featuring a line-up of excellent speakers who inspired, challenged and guided people through the task of governing the church in New Zealand in this particular season. The feedback we’re receiving is heart-warming, and we’re already dreaming up new ideas for next year.

We are delighted to have crossed the annual “finish line” of 31 August ahead of the budget despite the twists and turns of the past 12 months. I’m most proud of how we have earnestly sought to balance the interests of our borrowers, depositors and shareholders, which is not an easy feat in such times. Additionally, I’m pleased to report to the Baptist whānau that we have nearly doubled the dividend to the Baptist Union this year, enabling more resources to support the Baptist network in its mission to live out the Gospel in Aotearoa.

Warm regards from your friends at Christian Savings.

Photo: From

This update is from the 2023 Annual Report of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, which you can view here.

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