Despite thinned ranks and a slightly more somber tone, insurance execs attending the LIMRA International 2001 annual meeting generally conveyed an optimistic attitude toward the future.

Turnout was a bit off for the conference, held October 28 to 30 in Toronto. Nearly 400 insurance and financial services executives attended — down from a more typical crowd of 500, according to LIMRA spokesman Howard Drescher. LIMRA is a marketing and distribution association for insurance and financial services companies. “In spite of September 11, it was pretty upbeat,” said Bill Tindall, senior vice president of retirement services at American United Life, Indianapolis, and newly elected LIMRA board chairman. Tindall said his colleagues are all responding differently to the economy and events of September 11.

“I think there will be more pressure at company levels for people to watch their discretionary spending, including conferences,” he observed, adding that demonstrating the value of a meeting or incentive will grow increasingly crucial.

Lynette Owens, whose Rancho Mirage, Calif.-based hotel selection firm caters to insurance and financial services companies, noticed a large falloff in international attendees at this year's LIMRA meeting. But those who did show up were decision-makers who were eager to talk about future bookings, she said.

Although the economy and terrorist events played havoc with meeting and event plans at the end of 2001, Owens expects more typical booking patterns to resume in 2002. “I absolutely have not seen one 2003 or later meeting changed or canceled. It's business as usual as far as I can see.”

Sessions at this year's meeting focused on the ongoing evolution of insurance companies into broader financial services firms.