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
* 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
* 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
* 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].”
Statistics from the survey, conducted
last August and compiled by the Market Research & Statistics
Group within Chicago-based SmithBucklin Corp., were based on the
responses of 112 of the most senior meeting planners at member
companies. Respondents had an average of 13 years of planning
experience, and 73 percent had a four-year college degree or
higher. The study covers several areas, including company
demographics, meeting budgets, international meetings, size of
meetings, services outsourced and professional challenges faced.
Among the findings:
* Member demographics.
The majority of FICP’s members work within the insurance industry.
Indeed, 64 percent of member companies are in the insurance
business, 13 percent are in financial businesses and 21 percent
represent a combination of the two. A majority of member companies
(71 percent) combined have fewer than 5,000 employees.
Overall, 32 percent of member companies
have just one meeting planner, 50 percent have two to five and 14
percent have six to 10 planners. Only 4 percent have a meeting
planning staff of more than 10. Perhaps of greater interest is the
fact that financial-only companies employ an average of 6.2
planners, almost three times the size of the planning departments
at insurance-only companies, where the planning staff averages 2.8
* What they spend. If
suppliers weren’t paying attention to FICP member spend, they are
now. An astonishing 67 percent of member companies have an annual
meeting and event budget of $1 million or more, with 24 percent of
U.S. and 17 percent of Canadian companies having $5 million or
“This was the one big ‘Aha!’ of the
entire survey,” says Bova. “Right there, that tells us that our
members pack a lot of clout. As a community, we generate $600
million annually in meetings revenue as a group, or $1 billion
industrywide,” he says. (The $1 billion cited is a projected
figure, considering that not all meeting planners employed by
financial and insurance industries belong to FICP.) “That makes us
more of a leader and not just another industry association.”
Not only do meeting planners in
financial services companies have a bigger staff than their
insurance industry colleagues, they seem to have bigger budgets and
are expecting them to get even larger this year.
Some 57 percent of planners in
financial member companies expect increased budgets for 2007.
Overall, 70 percent of all respondents expect their budgets to
remain the same in 2007. “The good news here is that few budgets
are declining,” says Bova. “Planners will have to do more with
less, but that’s because meeting costs continue going up in a
* Going abroad.
Members typically plan one meeting or event per year outside of
North America, usually an incentive event. In 2006, the number of
international meetings stayed roughly the same as the previous year
for 65 percent of respondents. That, however, is about to
Some 32 percent of survey respondents
anticipate an increase in the number of international meetings and
events planned for this year. And exactly where do they expect to
be going? Europe, it appears, is the winning destination. For 2007,
the top three destinations where meetings currently are being
planned are Europe, (cited by 74 percent -- a hefty 24 percent
increase over 2006), the Caribbean (49 percent, a 10 percent
increase over 2006) and Bermuda (14 percent, a 1 percent dip from
last year). Other international destinations already booked or
under consideration for future events include South America, Hong
Kong, Russia and Japan.
* In-house vs.
outsourced. While outsourcing has grown by leaps in the
meetings industry as a whole, financial and insurance planners
still like to hold their cards close. In fact, zero respondents say
they completely outsource marketing and promotion or site
selection. Travel and audiovisual were the top two services likely
to be outsourced: 67 percent of all respondents completely or
partially outsource travel (64 percent of financial-member
respondents completely outsource travel), and 83 percent of all
respondents completely or partially outsource A/V.
Services most likely to be handled
exclusively in-house are marketing and promotion, registration and
site selection. A full 86 percent of total respondents handle
marketing and promotion in-house, 73 percent do registration
themselves, and 67 percent rely on in-house site selection. “As far
as site selection goes, our members are held directly accountable,
so they want to retain that sense of control,” says Bova.
* Hiring help. Some 97
percent of all respondents use destination management companies for
transportation, entertainment, meet and greet, and decor. And 83
percent hire outside speakers, mostly from speakers bureaus, with
motivational presenters, industry experts, comedians and
entertainers being the top choices. Again, financial services
companies are the big spenders. Overall, the average fee paid for a
speaker by FICP members is $15,928. However, the average speaker
fee paid by financial services companies specifically is $25,577,
more than 60 percent higher.
With regard to meeting activities, golf
and spas are the two major choices of recreation, with 79 percent
of respondents saying their events include golf outings. Of that
number, 61 percent say they host a golf event up to three times per
year. For spas, 69 percent rate access to a spa facility for their
attendees as very important or important.
Eye on the Future
Last year was a time of defining new
strategies and rebranding for FICP. The association focused its
attention on growing membership within the financial services
industry, which increased by 15 percent in 2005 and another 10
percent in 2006. This success was attributed primarily to the
organization’s name change, which attracted an influx of meeting
planners from the financial services industry.
With a new identity and a new name, the
association’s board now is turning its energies toward improving
the quality of its educational offerings, continuing to grow
membership, providing more sponsorship opportunities to its
hospitality partners and bolstering its status within the meetings
In the educational development pipeline
are webinar opportunities for members, an increase in the number of
educational programs offered through the regional chapters and new
educational forums covering topics not offered at the annual
Unlike other industry associations,
FICP limits exhibitor access to the trade show held during its
annual conference. Passes are doled out solely by a lottery system:
Every year suppliers apply, and the chosen few are randomly
selected. The association limits the ratio to 1.5 suppliers for
every registered planner. To keep this formula intact, FICP has to
project -- and also wait for registrations to roll in -- before
granting entrance to suppliers.
Because FICP membership is limited to
meeting planners, snagging an exhibit slot is a major coupe for
those looking to network with these powerful planners.
That formula, however, has been
altered. “One dramatic change we have made is with the chain
hotels. Their participation had always been based on the size of
the hotel company, which meant the biggest got an automatic number
of exhibitor slots once they were selected,” says Bova. “The way we
have changed it, the larger hotel chains still get guaranteed spots
at our trade show, but not nearly as many. There are plenty of DMCs
and speakers bureaus that provide services, and we want to give
them an opportunity to get involved.”
If the hotels feel they want more
slots, says Bova, there are sponsorship levels they can sign up for
that can take them to that level.
In fact, as a result of its efforts to
offer a more level playing field to independent hospitality
partners, FICP has doubled sponsorship opportunities in the past
two years. “We have had to be very careful in how we move ahead
with this, because we do not want more than 1.5 hospitality
partners to every planner in attendance,” says Bova.
For comparison, other major meetings
industry associations typically have two or as many as 2.5
suppliers to every meeting planner member in attendance at their
conventions, according to Bova.
“The real nuance behind FICP is the
relationship-building and networking, which is why suppliers want
to be in the trade show in the first place,” Bova says. “They know
the value of having access to our planners in one location.”