Highlights from the annual conference & exhibition
by Kathy Wells
August 10, 2018

The Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) held its Annual Conference & Exhibition June 23-27, 2018, at the Fountainebleau Miami Beach in Miami Beach, Florida. Since beginning in 1981, CFMA has focused on the educational interests and needs of construction financial professionals and the industry partners who serve those needs. Represented in membership by varying types of contractors, CFMA currently serves more than 8,200 members in 98 chapters throughout the United States and Canada. In its seventh consecutive year of record-breaking attendance, this year’s conference hosted 1,403 attendees. A breakdown of attendees by position/role revealed the majority included controllers (25 percent), CEOs (20 percent), vice presidents (10 percent) and accounting (8 percent). Others included surety, information technology, human resources, risk, etc. (37 percent).

According to Stuart Binstock, CFMA president and CEO, “Our goal this year, like every year, is to put on a content-rich conference with a variety of topics. This year, we wanted to include more intermediate and advanced courses.” This year’s agenda featured four dynamic general sessions, five ignite sessions, 11 mini-conferences, 42 breakout sessions—including six advanced sessions, eight dawn peer groups, and several social events and networking opportunities.

The theme “Reach Out, Branch Out, Top Out,” according to Binstock, symbolizes “a path toward building professional success and looking at opportunities to reach out and branch out in the education and networking needed to achieve goals. However, the ‘branching out’ apex doesn’t correlate to the end of the path; rather, it serves to point toward a new path to undertake and begin the process anew.” To address the conference theme, Joe McLaughlin, CPA, CCIFP and 2018-2019 CFMA chairman, explained that in construction, a building is “topped out” when the last beam is placed. Because this is only one milestone in the progress of a much larger project, McLaughlin encouraged attendees to continue to make reachable goals, face challenges and ask for help when they need it. A large part of the work CFMA does involves providing help—whether it’s help to members by way of its educational opportunities, or help to others through its charitable efforts.

CFMA’s 21st Annual Golf Tournament and Fun in the Sun 5K Walk Run benefited Construction Angels, a South Florida-based nonprofit organization that facilitates access to financial services for immediate surviving family members of construction workers who have lost their lives while working on a jobsite.

Every year, CFMA presents a series of awards to outstanding members. This year, Kimberly A. Hullfish, CCIFP, received the 2018 Joe Quigley Memorial Award recognizing chapter participation and activity. Joe Burkett, CCIFP, received the 2018 Debra Hahn Memorial Award recognizing CFMA participation and activity on both the chapter and CFMA organization-wide levels. Herbert W. Brownett, CCIFP, received the Danny B. Parrish Outstanding Leadership Award. Cal Beyer received the Chairman’s Award for exhibiting extraordinary performance in one or more CFMA initiatives.

Educational sessions covered a range of topics. “The CFM Challenge gamification session was our first offering in the gamification space; it was interactive, fun and educational,” said Binstock. Among others, the “Active Shooter: Are You Prepared?,” “Mock Trial: Change Dispute Between a General Contractor & Subcontractor,” “Top 10 Contractor Tax Mistakes” and “Death of a Contractor” sessions were also popular.

Shaun Ross is a surety account analyst at Liberty Mutual Surety, where he is part of a team that provides management and strategic consulting to the contractors it underwrites. “We’ve had a representative attend since 2012. This was the first year we exhibited and sponsored,” said Ross. As a 4-year member of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, chapter, Ross says strong educational content is what keeps him coming back. A session titled “Understanding the Fraud Life Cycle: A Former FBI Agent Tells All” held the most impact for him this year. Presenter Vic Hartman, J.D., CPA/CFF, CFE, is an attorney at The Hartman Firm LLC in Atlanta, Georgia, and formerly an FBI special agent for 25 years. He also played leadership roles in both the Enron and WorldCom investigations. In the session, Hartman shared the motivations, causes and effects of fraud and corruption.

General sessions included presentations from Robyn Benincasa, Dr. Tasha Eurich, Anirban Basu and James Benham, covering topics, including “Why Winners Win,” “3 Behaviors of Self-Aware CFOs,” “Economic Update” and “Construction Disruption,” respectively. “The information presented and the quality of speakers provides a well-rounded and relevant overview of the industry,” said Ross.

The 2019 conference will be held June 1-5 at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit cfma.org to register and get more information.