by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | February 01, 2007

FICP members


FICP members gatheredin Las Vegas in November 2006.

In 1957, Russia launched Sputnik, the first earth-orbiting satellite; Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story debuted on Broadway, and medical history was made with the invention of the pacemaker. It was also the year a handful of insurance executives gathered together to network and decided spontaneously to start an association. During that meeting, the Insurance Conference Planners Association, now known as the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners, was born, a full 14 years before a group called Meeting Planners International -- today’s Meeting Professionals International -- set up shop.

Over the course of the past five decades, FICP has continued to develop its mission and swell its ranks. Today, membership, which is strictly limited to meeting planners, stands at 500, a 15 percent growth over 2005, spread among six regional chapters. The organization has matured into a full-fledged, well-regarded meetings industry organization, capping several major professional milestones along the way.

* 1958. ICPA founding members meet in New York City for the association’s first official meeting.

* 1970. The association holds its first annual conference outside North America, with half of the 63 members attending at the Hamilton Princess hotel in Bermuda.

* 1974. The first female member joins.

* 1983. A newsletter is launched. That same year, the volunteer-managed association announces its changeover to nonprofit status, setting annual dues at $50.

* 1989. Thirty-five members gather at the Four Seasons Clift Hotel in San Francisco to attend the association’s first educational seminar, outside of the annual conference.

* 2003. The association moves its longtime headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia, to Chicago, and SmithBucklin takes over management under Steve Bova, CAE, executive director.

* 2004. Jim Jones, an ICPA founding member, becomes the association’s first representative to be inducted into the Convention Industry Council’s Hall of Leaders. (Jones, who served as ICPA’s director in the 1960s, also was a founding member of both MPI and the Society of Corporate Meeting Professionals.)

* 2005. ICPA changes its name to Financial & Insurance Conference Planners, in acknowledgement of the growing number of members from within the financial services industries.

In 2007, FICP is celebrating its history while forging ahead. This past November, at its annual conference held in Las Vegas, the association released the findings of its first-ever Economic Impact Survey of the Financial & Insurance Conference Planning Market. Those findings, says Bova, validate the value FICP members bring to the meetings industry and elevate the association to a new professional level.

“The survey is the first benchmark our members have had that compares them in staff size and budget to the industry average, and that’s a tremendous benefit to have in negotiations and as a management tool,” says Bova. “It’s also a benefit to our hospitality partners, many of whom want to get involved with sponsorship. The survey shows the marketing value of being out in front of the FICP audience, and that even just being associated with our events lends credibility [to a sponsor].”