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Financial advisor Ladd departs

Elected UUA term ends.
By Tom Stites
May/June 2005 5.1.05

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As Larry Ladd prepares to step down from one of the UUA's most powerful, unusual, and least understood positions—"The bulk of what I do," he says, "is prevent bad things from happening"—he looks back on a lot of good things that have happened.

At General Assembly in June, Ladd will complete two four-year terms as financial advisor, the Association's third-ranking elected position after the president and moderator. The financial advisor, a volunteer, is elected to an at-large Board seat with the special responsibility to provide "an independent and expert evaluation of financial issues and the fiscal health of the UUA,"; as Ladd explains it on the financial advisor's section of the UUA Web site. The advisor is a voting member of the Board of Trustees and its Executive Committee, and its Administrative, Organizational, and Personnel committee; in addition, the advisor serves as a member of several UUA bodies: the Investment Committee, the Compensation Benefits and Pension Committee, and the Congregational Properties and Loan Commission.

Here are some of the good things Ladd has noted:

Socially responsible investing: The Association's long commitment was given new life through a shareholder activism initiative. "If we show up at an annual meeting, and we hold shares, and push for changes in employment practices or environmental practices, they often actually change,"; Ladd says. "This can really have an impact.";

Church staff compensation: After a slow start, he says, the UUA's effort to elevate compensation standards for clergy, religious education directors, administrators, and other church staff has made great progress.

Endowment performance: About 40 percent of the UUA's revenue comes from earnings from its endowment, so how it is invested is crucial. After returns took a dip compared with other endowments, asset allocation policy and investment advisors were changed. "I think our endowment is in very good shape at the moment,"; he says.

Audit Committee: This new board-appointed committee hires and monitors the UUA's external auditors. "Now there's more than just one person, the financial advisor, monitoring financial behavior,"; Ladd says approvingly. "They offer perspective that no one in my role would have in total.";

Ladd, 55, is the fifth financial advisor since the position was created in 1967. He is national director of higher education practice for Grant Thornton, a global tax, accounting, and business advisory firm, and has long experience in nonprofit financial management. Dan Brody of Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, is running unopposed to succeed Ladd; an election will be held at GA.

"The role of financial advisor is unique in my experience of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations,"; says UUA President William G. Sinkford. "It epitomizes our collective distrust of authority. I will miss Larry's sense of history and easy humor. We've lived through some difficult financial times. Our respect for one another made even these difficult times a pleasure."

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