Financial advisor Ladd departs

Financial advisor Ladd departs

Elected UUA term ends.


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."