April 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Newsline newsline.gif (8042 bytes)   WACHOVIA AND FIRST UNION MERGE MEETINGS
Bank Planner Pushes CentralizationImage
Debbie Covington Debbie Covington, the director of meetings and events at First Union Bank, saw both challenge and opportunity in a corporate merger this past September.

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 at Wachovia.

“A lot of them said they didn’t have time for negotiating,” said Covington, who added that meeting budgets at Wachovia generally went unchecked.

“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.


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