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Thinking Outside The Banks

Wachovia Bank's Isabel Fernandez brings unique and interactive events to clients no matter what size her budget may be.

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Wachovia Bank's Isabel Fernandez brings unique and interactive events to clients no matter what size her budget may be.

Title: Sales and Service Project Manager
Age: 42
What She Does: Primarily marketing, sponsorships, contribution requests, and client and employee events
Staff: One assistant
Career Path: Going from a wannabe prison warden to an unsuspecting hotel worker and eventually into the finance industry, Fernandez's career path has never really been planned. After graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Management and a minor in Criminal Justice, she began working in a hotel while studying public administration. Working in a hotel was so appealing that she switched tracks and obtained a Master's Degree in Hospitality Management. After several years in hotels, she began working in banks. She thought it was temporary, but has now worked in various banks for more than 10 years.
Biggest Job Challenge: Holding fabulous events on limited budgets and balancing a career with volunteer work.
Hobbies: Writing, surfing the Internet, and doing volunteer work for several organizations
Favorite Event Cuisine/Cocktail: Hot dogs or any other carnival-style food

How long have you been in your position and how did you get it?

"Six years. I was previously in Human Resources. My skills in communications, creative recruiting, and managing employee events were easily transferable and highly valued in my current position, which was an internal promotion."

How many events/meetings do you plan for Wachovia? For how many people?

With approximately 10 employee and five client events annually, the attendance ranges anywhere from 50 to 500 people.

How do you keep the meetings/events fresh and exciting?

"I try to be creative with interactive event themes. I also look for events that provide unique opportunities for my clients."

What has been the favorite event you've planned for Wachovia?

"We do an annual flag football event where 60 clients are divided into four teams that are coached by Miami Dolphins alumni. The clients use the Miami Dolphins' lockers, enter the field through the tunnel, and play on the field as their guests cheer them on. After game play, there's a dinner for everyone where we award the MVPs. After the event, they receive a DVD and CD with footage from the event."

Being that you work for a financial institution, how do you deal with budgets?

"Budgets are a reality. I always make food a priority, ensuring that the menu is varied, of quality, and of quantity. If I'm struggling with a budget, I look for creative ways to provide entertainment so that I don't sacrifice food."

Have you seen a change in the way Wachovia is doing events/meetings?

"Yes, we're moving from doing large client events to doing more intimate ones. We want to create opportunities where we can interact in a more dynamic and intimate way with our clients. As far as employee events, they all include a business aspect/agenda (such as training or a meeting), rather than being strictly social."

What have you done for a meeting/event that is out of the box?

"We've used some of our sponsorship partners to create events that are meaningful." Just to give you a better understanding, they'll take their funding of a local museum and use this partnership to procure normally inaccessible museum areas, in which they can host their events.

Are there trends in the industry right now that you wish would go away?

"I feel that events are sometimes managed in a competitive way—'how to outdo other events' kind of thing. I'd love to see events go back to standing on their own and not requiring dramatic elements to be considered successful."

How do you choose the right vendors?

"I give my business to those that keep my events wonderful." To avoid last-minute occurrences where the vendor might not come through, she tends to stay loyal to those that she already knows and trusts.

Any horror stories from an event/meeting? If so, how did you recover?

"For an important client event, we ordered gifts that averaged $60 each. We specifically did not want any branding on the gift items, only on the boxes. Of course, the gifts arrived with branding on all items. This was a true horror story for me. We used the gifts anyway, due to the lack of timing available, but I know in my heart that the gifts lost value to our clients because of our vendor's error."

Is there something you wish were available for events/meetings or wish that you could do for your company?

"I'd love to see unique experiences and locations available for events."

Albert del Toral
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