Paul Eder, CLU, CPA, ChFC, is vice president agency services, meetings and incentives, Protective Life Insurance Co., Birmingham, Ala., where he manages meetings and events (along with handling some marketing responsibilities) for his division. As vice president, finance, for, he is entering his third year on the association's board of directors. We caught up with Eder shortly after the FICP annual meeting in November, while he was on the road for a Protective Life meeting.
You are a CPA, CLU (chartered life underwriter), and ChFC (chartered financial consultant). Can you talk a little bit about the professional journey that took you from the financial side of the business to the meetings side?
I started my career with what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers, in auditing. During the next stage of my career I took on a sales role and joined Protective Life in the sales management end of the business. At one point, I picked up the meetings function for our life division, and I moved more and more into meetings management. And I love it — it has become a real passion for me.
How has that prior experience helped you perform your current responsibilities?
I'm in a pretty unique position. Most of my meeting customers (the executives I now manage meetings for) are former peers of mine, and this has helped me to develop a really strong relationship with them. I get and give a different level of input than I would have given or received otherwise. I've been on their side of the fence, so I understand what they are trying to achieve.
You're in your final year on the FICP board, currently as VP, Finance. What kind of shape is the association in financially, and what are some of the challenges it faces in the future?
From a financial standpoint, we've never been stronger. We're coming off two highly successful annual meetings: New York in 2005 and Las Vegas in 2006. We've successfully rebranded the association to encompass financial services companies. And with the association management move to SmithBucklin, we've put a solid accounting system in place so that we're able to get a good handle on every dollar we take in and every dollar we spend.
As for challenges, I think one of the biggest is figuring out how to best deploy our resources. Like every other organization, we're trying to do more with less. We continually question the best way to use our resources, and how we can most effectively serve the broad spectrum of our membership.
Last year, you also served as FICP's chapter liaison (Karyn Rizzo is the new VP, Chapter Relations). What is FICP trying to accomplish with the chapters?
Our goal for the chapters is cohesiveness. For example, it's important to develop a certain consistency among the chapters with the way our education programs are offered.
What's your message to FICP members — and nonmembers — about the benefits of association membership?
When I think of my own personal experience, the biggest benefit has been education. Attending— whether the chapter regionals, the summer educational meeting, or the annual meeting, is a great way to keep current and to keep your skills on the cutting edge.
Relationships are an important benefit as well. You hear about networking so much that it has become kind of a cliché, but it does provide you with a great resource in this business. Financial services and insurance conference planners are constantly facing challenges, and it helps to have a network of peers you can contact to find out how they handled things in similar situations.
How has FICP membership helped you to do your job in your company?
First, let me turn the question around — my job within my company has certainly helped me do my job with FICP. And membership in FICP has also helped me in a number of ways — one of which is public speaking. I've found my public speaking experience useful both at association meetings and within my own organization.
When you leave the FICP board a year from now, what do you hope your key accomplishments will have been?
Helping to tightly manage association finances, putting a solid financial reporting structure in place, and using our financial assets in ways that are most beneficial to FICP membership as a whole.