After almost 20 combined years of fighting in the trenches together at a competitive conference organization, the partners of Financial Research Associates (FRA) Lori Medlen, Laura Garza, and Ellen Wofford answered the entrepreneurial call in 2001 and opened the doors of Financial Research Associates, LLC. The partners’ skill sets merged perfectly together to form the “dream team” of the conference world. Their partnership, enthusiasm, and competitive spirit have been a key driver of FRA’s success from that very first day in 2001.
During that first year, Lori Medlen produced FRA’s first conference called Mutual Fund Alternatives (a first-ever conference on this topic). Laura Garza produced Synthetic CDOs (another first-ever conference). Simultaneously, Ellen Wofford spearheaded sponsorship sales and FRA was off and running. Before the end of the first year the dream team cranked out a dozen events.
On September 11, 2001, FRA was hosting two of their first financial conferences in Boston. Having to interrupt sessions to relay the early details of the attacks was very difficult, not knowing who may have lost friends or relatives. The subsequent reluctance of potential delegates to travel--and the economic effect of the attacks--meant a short setback for FRA. Just as America began to heal and grow, FRA rebounded well in 2002. The company faced another challenge later that year when Lori was diagnosed with and bravely fought cancer.
From its inception, Financial Research Associates made its mark on the conference industry by being first-to-market with well-researched, innovative, content-driven conferences. Many—if not most—of the conferences held by our competitors are copy-cats of events we developed first. We delve deeply into each topic area, and expand our portfolio by finding nuanced topic areas within industries that turn into conferences themselves.
In 2005, we launched our Medicare and Healthcare divisions and built those up from scratch, again being first-to-market with conferences on issues such as the Medicare CMS Star Ratings. Again due to our extensive research, our Medicare events are acknowledged as tops in the industry. And, as a result of our success in this arena, we established the Risk Adjustment Initiative and Society for Education (RISE) which boasts a significant membership from top health plans and providers.
In the financial arena, we established the Hedge Fund Business Operations Association, catering to executives in the operational and back-office functions of hedge funds. Our success with HFBOA has led to several industry-leading events, particularly those in the private investment funds tax space.
Although the “Great Recession” certainly challenged FRA, we’ve bounced back stronger than ever, and we’re adding new conferences continually. We’ve responded by instituting better cost management procedures, but have taken some risks (successfully) that others perhaps would avoid in such an environment.
Although our offices in California and North Carolina are relaxed and casual, we stress results and value substance over form. Innovative ideas are prized and encouraged. Our Operations team, for example, has implemented new procedures over the years that have led not only to operational efficiencies, but also to a new level of customer service to both attendees and speakers alike.
As we look forward, we expect to continue our entrepreneurial adventure while tapping new topic areas, taking a few risks here and there, all while providing a fun and rewarding place to work for our employees.