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FEI - Is it really worth it?

I'm considering whether or not to renew my membership in FEI. I've been a member for few years, and each year have attended a few of the local chapter meetings. The local meetings seem to be the biggest benefit of membership because of the networking opportunities and speakers. About 50% of the meetings are interesting or relevant to me. I'm having a hard time understanding the value of the national membership, which is the most expensive part of the dues. The biggest benefit was their monthly magazine with "free" cpe. Now, with the new rules, the cpe is no longer "free." There is the opportunity to get super involved in an officer role, but I don't know that I have the time nor interest in that. There are other CFO networking opportunities around the city. So, FEI is not the only opportunity for networking. Plus there are many other worthy associations out there, such as state society of cpa, aicpa, and ima. I'm actually interested in pursuing the ima certification. So, in a world of limited time, money and focus, I'm leaning away from FEI. Would appreciate any thoughts from others who are or have been involved in FEI.

Answers

Anonymous
(Trusted Advisor) |

About ten years ago, FEI was geared to public companies while they have diversified with more private company members. While I really enjoyed the local networking and the educational opportunities of the local FEI chapter, I became disenchanted with the disrespect of those who were over served (drunk!) and it was hard to hear the speakers at the dinner meetings. I did not want my dues paying for other people to drink so much, so I quit. I asked the chapter to institute a two drink ticket system and limit how many bottles of wine were available per table, but that did not go far. Agreed, not much value for national membership unless you are the public company and need to climb the career ladder.

Bruce Lynn
Title: Managing Partner
Company: The FECG LLC
(Managing Partner, The FECG LLC) |

Dear Anonymous

It sounds like you like the local FEI chapter but not so much the national. See if your local chapter will allow you to "pay at the door".

As for the other organizations you mentioned - you may find the same issue (like the local , not crazy about the national).

The real issue is whether any of the meetings meet your long term goals. If one of them is to be recognized nationally or to accumulate certain expertise you should go with the national group that offers the best programs or certifications you want.

Local chapters will not help here as they are more about networking (important, true) than gaining expertise. Then again, expertise without good networking can be limiting when it is time to find that next job.

Leslie Karnauskas
Title: CFO
Company: BMGI
(CFO, BMGI) |

I believe the experience for national organizations such as FEI can vary greatly by chapter. I have not run into what the anonymous responder mentioned regarding over drinking at the meetings. I have been a member of FEI for about 12 or so years now and believe I get a great deal out of it as we have a strong chapter. In addition to the dinner meetings we have 2 hour CPE sessions that start at 4:00 at the meeting location that are free. I do not know if all chapters do that however. We have great dinner speakers as well. I always seem to meet someone knew and renew old friendships as well at the meetings. It is really about long term relationship building.

As to National - I know that part of the dues seems to not bring a lot of value for many of us. But they do work on things besides issues just for large public companies. There is a private company group as well that has periodic conference calls to update those interested in what is going on with issues related to private and small companies such as the potential "small GAAP" or is it "little GAAP" changes that are being considered.

I am also a member of IMA. I found it extremely useful earlier in my career. Again this may vary by local chapter but the membership of IMA tends to be more junior than that of FEI. I have a CMA and would highly recommend that certification for anyone wanting to pursue a career in industry rather than with an accounting firm. I maintain my membership in IMA but only attend those meetings occasionally.

I have served on the Board of both organizations over the years and found that experience to be very fulfilling. It is also a great way to really get to know the organization and many of your fellow members. As with many membership organizations, it can often be at least somewhat about how much you put into the group that drives how much you get out and how valuable you see your membership. I for one will maintain my membership in FEI as long as I continue to work in the field.

Anonymous
(Owner) |

I agree with Leslie's points. Our local chapter has had great speakers and offers free CPE courses by the large accounting firms. The actual cost of the dinner at the monthly meetings exceeds the total annual dues. Plus, my local chapter offers a lot of free (holiday party) and discounted events (hockey event and golf tournament) for members to attend. In addition, there are career services meetings for those in transition. I have been a member for 20 years and have served on the board as well. By the way, all the members in this organization have been great to know.

One last point, I met the founder of this site at our local FEI meeting just before it was going to be launched. What does that tell you?

John Arthur
Title: CFO/Consultant
Company: Arthur & Company
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO/Consultant, Arthur & Company) |

I have been a member of FEI for many years and I am currently a member of the National Relations Committee. The comments made previously about the value of the programs exceeding the cost of the total dues including National dues, the Career Services program and the free CPE sessions are all valid in my chapter, also. In addition, my committee has been promoting the value of FEI National to the members of my chapter through newsletters, LinkenIn, Facebook and Twitter. The National office includes FERF which is a great resource for answers to technical and procedural accounting questions. FEI also plays a large role in the development of new accounting pronouncements and as a member of FEI you are able to participate in online discussions and provide your own viewpoint. I believe this is a very significant benefit for those who are serious about their roles as Accounting Officers. FEI National is very active in protecting our interests and it may not be apparent until you dig into to the National home page and take advantage of the research, lobbying, interest groups and documentation done on our behalf. I also agree that maintaining FEI membership is a choice that depends on your goals, interests and the degree to which you want to play an active role in Accounting research, education and regulations.

Topic Expert
Joan Varrone
Title: CFO
Company: Cloud Cruiser
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, Cloud Cruiser) |

I am the President of the SF Chapter and have been on the Board for several years. Since the local chapter events are personal providing the benefits mentioned above, most of our members see this as the biggest reason to be an FEI member. I have been involved with several professional organizations and have found that you get out what you put into it and have been involved at the Board/committee level and have formed strong professional and personal relationships from this.

Konrad Sosnow
Title: Revenue Recognition Guru
Company: Konrad M. Sosnow & Associates
(Revenue Recognition Guru, Konrad M. Sosnow & Associates) |

I have been a member of the Silicon Valley Chapter for more than 25 years. I served on the Chapter Board of Directors for several fun filled years. My favorite activity is the social networking prior to our dinner meetings. It gives me the opportunity to catch up with many friends. Our dinner speakers are usually interesting. I attend the Professional Development sessions and the Career Luncheon programs when the topics interest me. I agree that the FEI National Dues are more of a tax on membership than payment for benefits.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

Sorry to post this anonymously, but don't want to offend any of my FEI friends. I had been an FEI member for over a dozen years. I joined b/c I thought it would be a good career move, great networking, and nice to have on my resume. First, let me say that everyone who works with and for FEI are high quality folks. And I know they make a significant and earnest effort to do good.

What I found, and the reason I stopped going after all those years, was that as a pretty much continually employed CFO, I didn't get much out of the organization. Don't get me wrong, I met nice people, and I did my best to make a couple to a few dinners a year, but I found that attendees at those events were roughly 1/3 employed practitioners (CFOs/Controllers/etc.), 1/3 unemployed practitioners and 1/3 service providers. What that translated to, effectively, was that 2/3rds of the attendees (yes, I'm estimating and surely off some amount) were asking me for something very directly. I can't tell you how many unsolicited, impromptu job interviews I was presented with over the years as people pitched me on hiring them. Everyone in between jobs seemed to be there to pitch those with jobs to get us to hire them. I don't blame them for a moment and harbor no ill will, but that was not why I was at the event.

Likewise, the roughly 1/3 who were service providers pitched me non-stop. Many of those providers were also practitioners of the "rent-a-CFO/auditor" variety in addition to other not-so-practitioner service providers (e.g. brokers, bankers), trying to get me to hire them for some project or other either now or in the future. Again, great people and I don't blame them - selling stuff/services is their job.

However, great though they all were, that was not why I was there. I was there hoping for interesting networking and discussions with fellow practitioners. Period. Although I duly attended dozens of meetings over the years, trying to network and talk shop with peers, I got very little of that b/c the other two groups were more aggressive about getting in front of me at those dinners. Yes, insert here the joke about how slow I am to change b/c I hung on for a dozen years. But I kept at it for a few reasons: 1) I truly wanted it to be great, 2)I felt having the group on my resume was worth something (turned out that was not the case in my instance), 3)My companies always paid and thus it was free but for the time I invested, and 4)I really wanted to network with peers and there are few avenues for doing so.

So again, this is one person's experience and I don't want to say that this is everyone's or even the majority experience. I will also reiterate that everyone I met, be they peer, in-between peer, or service provider were great folks. Top notch. But the experience itself fell short of where I wanted it to be and so I just gave up after all those years. If it had been my personal money I would have bailed out much sooner.

I'm sure most folks have better experiences than I did, but I did think it important to put this view out there along with the others.

Anonymous
(Strategic Leader) |

I was a very active member of my local FEI chapter until our board decided to support and promote exclusionary programs. In other words, despite the fact that all members are supposed to be equal, that was no longer the case. As for the issue with service providers, without those sponsors, the cost of the local chapter dues would increase dramatically. As for the issue of unemployed members, I suggest the poster give some consideration to the fact that he or she may someday be in their shoes. As for the question of continued membership, if the individual feels that his or her investment in FEI is not time well spent, they should simply discontinue their membership.

Topic Expert
Dana Price
Title: Vice President, M&A
Company: McGraw Hill Education
(Vice President, M&A, McGraw Hill Education) |

Anonymous, I am a member of the FEI and how I decide to renew my membership is a math exercise. I take the total credits I earned over the last year and divide that into the membership fee. It still comes out cheaper than attending other CPE events (I get about half my required credits from the FEI). I will also say all chapters are not created equal.

Topic Expert
Mark Richards
Title: VP of Finance & Operations
Company: RBA Consulting
(VP of Finance & Operations, RBA Consulting) |

For new members, FEI has a great deal of benefits - in both the national and local level.

The longer term at the national level is consistently good, especially in their focus on accounting matters.

At the local level, the issue does tend to be how well the chapter grows and participation of members when it comes to networking.

I happen to find the networking split to be the thirds mentioned to be true, but that did not preclude from networking opportunities with 2/3 of fellow finance professionals (I was generally less taken with the sales people from most of the vendor). Every member I met in transition is employed now and very few, if any, do not recall those who helped within the chapter.

I do think the meetings can lose a bit of their networking value (not CPE or speaker value), if only the same chapter members come again and again.

When I was in the chapter and on the local board, I made it a goal to connect with every chapter member - at a minimum by e-mail - and did about 50% face-to-face. So you do not have to rely upon the meetings to get good networking. I found many members would like to come, but simply did not have the bandwidth for a full evening - but would take time for a coffee/call.

My recommendation is to at minimum give it two years - if you can actively participate - then it's worth the investment. If not, then take time out until you can. It's no different than other groups - you get more when you can add in.

Hope this helps.

Mark

Taylor Hawes
Title: CFO IP&L
Company:
(CFO IP&L, ) |

I think the challenge for FEI is that FEI has a broad constituency of membership ranging from those involved the local chapters, those involved with advocacy, and those at-large, etc. Members that get involved seem to have a better experience and ability to advance the value of their respective constituency. I have found my experience to be incredibly rewarding in all these areas. Whether it is the FEI staff or member, they are passionate about FEI and have a desire to advance the profession, preserve their relationships and ensure continued access to the standard setters and local community. I would encourage you to consider the complete value proposition of FEI before making your decision.

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