The International Factoring Association’s (IFA) annual conference, from April 13-16 in Washington, D.C., is a must attend event to connect to industry experts and gain critical insights into factoring. The world’s largest meeting dedicated to companies that offer financing through factoring, this year’s conference provides plenty of educational material from beginner to advanced and domestic to international that will cover all current events within the factoring and commercial finance industry.

When economic times are challenging, it is not only important to freshen up on educational material and learn new tools to enhance a factor’s business, it is also important to connect to industry peers and learn from their challenges and experiences as well. With more than 25 hours of educational time and 15 hours of dedicated networking time, the IFA’s annual conference is the place to be if you are involved in the commercial finance industry. There will also be an exhibit hall showcasing over 50 leading vendors that provide services to factors and commercial finance companies to help grow their businesses by sharing the most innovative products and services available.

The IFA’s 2011 annual conference will help attendees learn from the past and look forward to the future of finance and factoring as more than 30 speakers share their experiences and knowledge in order to grow your business. This year’s educational lineup has the most relevant topics for the factoring and commercial finance industry. The conference will showcase the IFA’s largest and most comprehensive group of topics and speakers to date. It will start with an inside look at how the Federal Reserve operates by one of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and will look to the future of business and finance by one of the most widely recognized scientists in the world.

Governor Elizabeth A. Duke (Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System) took office on August 5, 2008, to fill an unexpired term ending January 31, 2012. Prior to her appointment to the board she was senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of TowneBank, a Virginia-based community bank. Previously, she was an executive vice president at Wachovia Bank, and an executive vice president at SouthTrust Bank. Earlier in her career, Duke was president and chief executive officer of Bank of Tidewater, based in Virginia Beach, VA. She served on the board of directors of the American Bankers Association from 1999 to 2006, and was its chairman from 2004 to 2005. She also served on the board of directors and as president of the Virginia Bankers Association and on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Dr. Michio Kaku (Physicist/Futurist) is an internationally recognized authority in two areas. The first is Einstein’s unified field theory, which Kaku is attempting to complete. The other is to predict trends affecting business, commerce and finance based on the latest research in science. He is one of the most widely recognized figures in science in the world. Kaku holds the Henry Semat Chair in Theoretical Physics at the City University of New York. He graduated from Harvard University in 1968 (summa cum laude and first in his physics class). He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972, and has been a professor at CUNY for almost 30 years. He has authored several international bestsellers, and has written articles for many major news and science publications. He does a considerable amount of public speaking on international radio and TV, and has appeared on numerous science specials and documentaries.

Other educational sessions include:

* A return of the extremely popular Report From The Courts to discover the lessons to be learned from this year’s court decisions and how the courts treated IFA members.

* Advanced Due Diligence Issues including: sales tax liens, credit insurance, who besides account debtors must pay for checks that are misdirected, arbitration provisions, invoice terms that do not become a part of the agreement with an account debtor, no-offset letter agreement problems, bankruptcy administrative priority opportunities and more.

* Factoring 101 — This program is designed specifically to assist those newer to the factoring industry;

* Introductions to Sales and Marketing — Another session geared towards those newer to the industry.

* Current Topics in Transportation Factoring If you purchase transportation paper or are considering doing so, don’t miss this lecture. Time will be dedicated solely to transportation factoring professionals; offering detailed information within the transportation industry and aiming toward different types and sizes of factoring companies.

* Negotiation Techniques — Marianne Eby, Esq. leads Watershed Associates’ negotiation training in the legal field. Co-author of Watershed’s negotiation workshop series, “Best Negotiating Practices,” she brings two decades of experience in litigation, settlement negotiations, business and training to this lecture.

* IRS and Tax Liens — Issues with the IRS can threaten the client’s business as well as a factor’s advances. Learn about the IRS collection process (notices, liens, levies) as well as resolution strategies (Installment Agreements — pending and formal, forbearance agreements, and Subordinations of Federal Tax Lien).

* Factoring in Canada Panel — This panel will be discussing legal issues affecting Canadian factors and those wishing to conduct factoring in Canada.

* Defending Bankruptcy Preference Claims Panel — Federal bankruptcy law allows a debtor to recover certain payments or “preferential transfers” that were made to a creditor a short time before the filing of the debtor’s bankruptcy. The panel will be discussing various methods to protect yourself from a preference lawsuit.

* Topical Legal Issues Panel — This panel will be discussing legal issues facing factors under today’s economic environment.

* Frauds, Fairytales and Facts about Managing a Factoring Portfolio Panel — It takes more to run a factoring company than some cash in the bank and a shingle on the door. The panel of experts will be discussing some of the misconceptions that exist in regards to running a factoring operation. Many of the common mistakes that factors make will be analyzed. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned expert, you will find this session to be thought provoking, educational and entertaining.

* Letters of Credit Panel — Often misunderstood, letters of credit are an essential part of international trade finance. This panel is going to explore types of letters of credit, best practices and “how to” information from the perspectives of industry experts working in different financial fields.

* Small Factors Roundtable — Factoring companies that fund clients with low sales volumes operate in a unique manner. This roundtable discussion is designed to give this important segment of our industry a forum to discuss their challenges and learn from their peers.

* Factoring Jeopardy — Back by popular demand! Jeopardy is “America’s Favorite Quiz Show,” ranking first in Nielsen ratings for the quiz show genre for more than 1,000 weeks, and winning 28 Daytime Emmy Awards. In this version of Factoring Jeopardy, contestants from the audience will be given the opportunity to pit their factoring knowledge against other players and win valuable gifts and prizes.

* The Saturday Idea Exchange — This explores continuing and emerging opportunities and issues in an environment that provides an informal opportunity for sharing ideas in a roundtable setting.

The IFA’s annual conference is not just about education. Whether you want to meet up with old acquaintances or connect with new business colleagues, make sure to take advantage of the networking opportunities as well. Networking opportunities include a golf tournament, Mount Vernon guest tour, the RMP Capital welcome reception, the Bibby event social, the Tax Guard dessert reception and, finally, the closing event at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The association is also offering an optional training class on Wednesday for Portfolio Management. This seminar is focused on sharing best practices employed by seasoned factoring companies. Learn about the tools these factors use that have helped them build and manage a portfolio that is able to weather tough times.

Whether the goal is education, or an expanded network, the 2011 IFA Conference will help factors to achieve both.

Heather Villa is communications director of the International Factoring Association.