Meetings & Conventions: Newsline
WACHOVIA AND FIRST
UNION MERGE MEETINGSBank Planner Pushes Centralization
ebbie Covington, the
director of meetings and events at First Union Bank, saw both
challenge and opportunity in a corporate merger this past
When Covington’s Charlotte, N.C., firm merged with Wachovia,
based in Winston-Salem, N.C., the new Wachovia had 30,000
additional employees, for a total of 88,000, and three
decentralized meeting planners.
Covington had a strategy to channel the new meetings to her
18-person department, having centralized meeting planning at First
Union six months earlier. Back then, she patiently explained to
First Union executives the purpose and value of her meetings
department. Now, she made similar presentations to the higher-ups
“A lot of them said they didn’t have time for negotiating,” said
Covington, who added that meeting budgets at Wachovia generally
“The employees at the original Wachovia weren’t even aware that
there were planners,” said Lori Hedrick, who was conference and
event planner for the company prior to the merger.
“A big point was that planners needed to have internal knowledge
of the company and its strategy,” Covington noted, so she
vigorously recommended that her combined staff attend as many of
Wachovia’s department meetings as possible.
As it now stands, meeting assignments often reach Covington’s
department via word of mouth. Planners take the ball after getting
tipped off by hotel reps or Wachovia assistants who see an RFP or a
contract that didn’t originate from the meetings department.
Covington’s hard work is paying off. Her group has captured
roughly 80 percent of all meetings at Wachovia, and as many as 95
percent of large events.
• MARTHA COOKE
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