What sets the companies on the index apart is that all have members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in senior management positions. "It's a pretty good representation of American industry," said Larsen, who launched his Mormon Stock Index two years ago as a feature on his Web site, www.mormonnews.com. It can now be found at www.mormonstockindex. com.
Although the index outperformed the well-known S&P 500 in the two years since it was launched, Larsen doubts his Mormon index will catch on among the majority of investors. "I'm sure the concept is a little weird for most people," he acknowledged.
Rather than offering the Mormon index as an investment tool, Larsen said he formulated the measure to serve as a rough gauge of how Mormon executives are doing in the business world. "And right now, they appear to be doing as well as anyone," he said, noting, however, that it is impossible to tell which of the Mormon executives are actively involved with their church and which are not.
Still, the Mormon index is up 8 percent from the closing bell on Dec. 31, 1999, while the S&P 500 is down roughly 20 percent over the same time period. The number of LDS Church members heading major U.S. corporations represents only a small fraction of corporate executives nationwide, speculated Sterling Jensen, senior managing director of Wells Fargo Capital Management in Salt Lake City.
And while Jensen questions whether the shares of Mormon-led companies will outperform the broad market indexes over time, he nevertheless termed the gauge "one of those fun ideas that occasionally emerge." "It is interesting to look at that group [of Mormon executives] to see who are the movers and the shakers and how the companies they run are doing," Jensen said. And the index also helps point out that it is possible to be a top- flight business manager and a faithful member of the LDS Church. "You'd like to think that they [the Mormon executives] have a high personal moral and ethical code that helps them succeed in business."
Members of the LDS Church heading major American corporations include J.W. Marriott Jr., chairman of Marriott International; Tony Burns, chairman of Ryder Systems; and Roger W. Sant, chairman of AES Corp., a Virginia-based power company with international operations.
Many of the companies on the Mormon index can be considered well- run companies. Yet there are also plenty of well-run companies that operate without any LDS influence in their management ranks. Ned Hill, dean of the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University, doubts if the success of the companies that are part of Larsen's index can be attributed to any particular Mormon management style. "If there is a Mormon management style, I'm not sure what it would be," Hill said.
He said the management styles of the LDS executives he has met have run the gamut. "There is no particular style that stands out," he said. Other companies on Larsen's Mormon Stock Index are Affiliated Computer Systems, Avista Corp., Black & Decker, Candence Design, Computerized Thermal Imaging, Corvis, 1-800 Contacts, Cygnus, Diebold, Dionex, EarthShell, Hillenbrand Industries and Hollywood Entertainment.
Also included are Host Marriott, Iomega, JP Realty, Knight Transportation, Micrel Semiconductor, Monaco Coach, Microsemi Corp., Myriad Genetics, Novell, NPS Pharmaceuticals, NuSkin, Oil States Int'l, Oakley and Cornerstone Realty Income Trust. Larsen noted that all of the companies listed in the index have a market capitalization of $100 million or more. As a result, companies such as Geneva Steel, MITY Enterprises and Franklin Covey do not qualify for inclusion.