A J for Jobs project in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward is transforming the city's downtown. Ullico hosted a workers appreciation event to thank the project's 100% union workforce for their hard work.
Darin Hardy took over as Ullico Inc.’s Chief Financial Officer on July 1, 2023, following the retirement of Dave Barra, who held the position for 15 years. Hardy’s impressive accounting credentials, comprehensive understanding of Ullico’s financials, and close working relationship with Barra, who is now serving on the Ullico Board of Directors, made him the obvious choice.
Ullico Inc. President and COO Brian Hale said, “Our company is in the best financial position it’s ever been. With Darin’s steady guidance, we are poised to keep delivering on our mission to protect and grow the union movement.”
Hardy is a practical individual, and that practicality has shaped his impressive career arc. From an early age, he enjoyed numbers and had a knack for problem solving. “Maybe excited is too strong of a word,” Hardy said with a smile, “but I enjoyed going to math class. It made sense to me, and I found it rewarding to solve equations.” That educational spark could have taken Hardy down a variety of career paths, but the economic and political landscape of the early 2000s ultimately directed him toward accounting.
Just before he entered college, Enron and WorldCom became embroiled in massive corporate fraud scandals, a development that sent shockwaves through the economy and inspired the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002. This legislation created strict financial regulations for public companies, spurring a huge demand for accountants—both for companies to monitor their own finances as well as audit firms to enforce the law’s regulations.
Even as a high school student, Hardy knew these tightened regulations represented a significant career opportunity. “That was the main reason I chose to go into accounting. The practical side of me said, ‘Hey, if you’re going to college, you might as well have a job when you’re done.’” It was a logical plan and one that proved successful. He enrolled in Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and secured a Staff Accountant position at Ernst and Young’s (EY) Philadelphia office by his junior year.
Following his graduation, Hardy spent the next 14 years at EY, ultimately becoming a Senior Manager. His first position focused on life insurance, annuity, and group insurance, all of which are central to Ullico’s business. Over the years, he gained experience across a wide swath of the public accounting field, including financial accounting, reporting, strategic planning, budgeting, internal planning, actuarial risk and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, and more.
As Hardy was developing his understanding of the financial services industry at EY, he was also building professional connections within the field—working closely with many of the largest names in the insurance industry and forging connections that exist to this day.
After 14 years of success at EY, Hardy decided it was time for a new challenge outside the public accounting field. As he contemplated a move to the private sector, Hardy found that his financial services experience and professional interests aligned with Ullico’s business model in compelling ways.
Working for a labor-owned company was appealing to Hardy, who had experienced firsthand the importance of unions in building a middle-class life. His mother was a teacher for her entire career and her union pension helped to secure a comfortable retirement for both of his parents. “Unions are central to strengthening the middle class,” said Hardy. “It’s personal for me. Those union benefits were a big deal for my family.”
Before long, Hardy met Damon Gasque, Ullico’s then Vice President & Corporate Controller. That warm interaction led to Hardy eventually meeting several members of Ullico’s management team, including Dave Barra. Barra was impressed and urged Hardy to apply for an opening at the company. Upon doing so, Hardy’s respect for Ullico continued to grow over the course of the interview process as he learned more about its demonstrated commitment to supporting the union movement. “It’s nice to have a job that you like,” said Hardy, “but it’s also meaningful to work for a company that’s doing so much good.”
Hired in 2020, Hardy joined Ullico as Vice President, Corporate Controller—taking over for Gasque when he retired. Over the course of the ensuing three years, Hardy’s experience at EY and Barra’s close mentorship allowed him to develop a comprehensive understanding of Ullico’s business units and the financials behind their operation.
When Barra decided to retire in 2023, he did so with full confidence that Hardy was ready to take over the role of CFO. “Darin’s promotion ensured a seamless transition following my retirement,” said Barra. “His breadth of experience and commitment to Ullico’s mission mean that the company’s finance and accounting operations are in good hands.”
Hardy’s tenure as CFO begins during a tremendously successful time for Ullico. As the company approaches its centennial milestone, each of its three business units—Investment Services, Property and Casualty, and Life and Health—are all growing stably and Ullico’s business prospects are as strong as ever.
AM Best, the world’s oldest insurance rating and information source, recently upgraded The Union Labor Life Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Ullico Inc., from an “A-“ to “A” rating—the company’s highest rating since 1955. “AM Best is meticulous with their scores,” said Hardy, “It’s a big deal to achieve an A rating and a historic moment for this company.”
AM Best’s report highlighted The Union Labor Life Insurance Company’s focus on innovation, but Hardy is quick to point out that this spirit of innovation is apparent throughout the entire company. “Our Property & Casualty division is spearheading an Alternative Dispute Resolution program that has the potential to offer better medical care while lowering insurance costs.”
Hardy emphasized, “Ullico is leading the way, because they have a deep understanding of what the union marketplace is looking for and the expertise to pull it off.”
Ullico’s investment vehicles, such as J for Jobs and the Ullico Infrastructure Fund, are further proof of the company’s penchant for thought leadership. “J for Jobs and UIF are both currently meeting their goals of providing competitive returns for their investors,” says Hardy. “That’s impressive enough, but those investments are also creating jobs for union members.” With the recent launch of the company’s real estate equity fund, the company is diversifying its investment portfolio and responding to a significant opportunity in the commercial real-estate industry. Surveying these investing strategies, Hardy sees a bright future ahead.
This confidence is, in part, a result of the company’s organizational balance. As Hardy explains, “There is a natural degree of volatility in the insurance market, but our investment services products strive for consistent returns and strong underwriting of all investments. That combination helps to balance our insurance products and keep Ullico in a strong financial position.”
Hardy is happy to dive into the nuances of the financial services industry at length, but there is more to him than his role as CFO.
He grew up near Philadelphia in a large, tight-knit family with four brothers and two sisters. He is also a devoted Philadelphia sports fan. He grew up rooting for the Phillies and Eagles with his family and it’s a tradition that is still important to him. If you see his office, you may notice some Philly sports memorabilia behind his desk.
When pressed for a favorite sports memory, one experience stands out. Hardy and his two youngest brothers had the opportunity to attend Game 5 of the 2008 World Series when his beloved Phillies took home the title. The game itself was split in half by a 48-hour rain delay, but the Hardy brothers nevertheless returned to see the Phillies’ pitcher, Brad Lidge, close out the win.
Now residing in Ellicott City, Md., Hardy and his wife have a growing family of their own; they welcomed their third son in September of 2023. With a new promotion and a new addition to the family, it’s an exciting time for Hardy—heck, even his Philly teams are performing well.
Ullico is also enjoying a period of historic success. With Hardy as CFO, the company is prepared for another decade of strong results with more to come.