The Lynette Owens Advisory Board meets at the Inn at Bay Harbor to discuss the consolidation of the financial services industry--and to check out the Midwest's hottest new resort.

ith the financial services industry still in transition, still awaiting the fate of legislation that could bring dramatic changes, the Lynette Owens & Associates (LOA) Insurance Advisory Board convened in July to discuss the challenges facing insurance companies as the new century approaches.

One thing is certain: No company can afford to watch from the sidelines. Even insurers that are not managing multiple distribution systems or selling their products through banks will be affected by both of these trends. During their meeting, the executives who make up the LOA board heard from two experts about the implications of the converging worlds of insurance, banking, and investment companies.

But when they weren't thinking about corporate strategy, they were enjoying a combination of Midwest hospitality and old-world elegance at Boyne USA's new Inn at Bay Harbor in Bay Harbor, Mich. Having opened near the turn of the new century, this Victorian-style, white-clapboard, red-roofed resort is meant to recall the turn of the previous century, when vacationers would arrive on steamboats and trains. Set on the shore of Little Traverse Bay, the grand hotel has 130 rooms open now, and will add 120 more for a total of 250 by early 2001.

Hot Topic: Banks in Insurance At press time, the Financial Services Modernization Act (H.R. 10) had been approved by the House of Representatives and was moving on to a House/Senate committee. This legislation would bring down the fire walls between banking, insurance, and securities.

For Citicorp Life Insurance Company in Dover, Del., however, those walls have been down for years. Chad Masland, CLU, ChFC, senior vice president, led off the Advisory Board's first day of discussions by telling the group about his company--a company which, until Citicorp's merger with the Travelers, may have been the best-kept secret in the industry.

That's because Citicorp Life is a fully empowered insurance company wholly owned by a bank. Its ability to build life and annuity policies despite its ownership by a bank comes from a grandfathered provision from the state of Delaware. Masland was brought to the company in 1996, after 13 years at National Life of Vermont. Since his arrival, Citicorp Life has become a top-ten company in terms of variable annuity sales through banks.

What is the winning formula? A well-established distribution channel, a product that makes sense, and outstanding service to support the sale, Masland says. The distribution channel is the bank branch system, with NASD-licensed salespeople working inside each branch. The product is a variable annuity with well-known mutual funds, competitive dollar-cost averaging, and good liquidity.

Now enter the Travelers, which announced its merger with Citicorp in 1998, and there may be changes ahead as systems, processes, and cultures are melded. But rather than focus on how Citicorp Life might (or might not) eventually be combined with the Travelers, Masland addressed the topic of insurance company alliances with banks.

"There are opportunities for small banks and small insurance companies to form partnerships," he said. The bank has the distribution channel, the insurance company has the product, and therein lie the two primary drivers of such partnerships. (Reducing expenses, a primary driver in mergers of like institutions, is a distant third, he said.) "Look for companies that will produce synergies in distribution and expanded markets, each company offering what the other does not have."

One of the biggest challenges of this kind of distribution expansion comes in the merging of the formerly separate sales cultures. And that's where meetings have a major role to play. On one hand, meetings can help to bridge the gap between cultures. Targeted training meetings, with executives present, can ease sales rep concerns about changes. And with incentive conferences, there are tough decisions to be made about whether to combine programs or keep them separate.

Hot Topic: Multiple Distribution Channels Unless you're Northwestern Mutual or New York Life, you're going to have to diversify your distribution to survive, said John Jarboe, executive vice president, marketing/life division, Pacific Life Insurance Company. Newport, Calif.-based Pacific Life is the 18th-largest life insurance company in the U.S. Today, the company uses four distribution channels: The M Group, branch offices, marketing organizations, and broker/dealers

The conflict among Pacific Life's various distribution channels is not among producers--it's the recruiters. To counteract that challenge, Pacific Life created a policy that states a producer can move to whatever distribution channel he or she wants, but cannot be compensated differently. In addition, producers and managers from all distribution channels attend the same conferences. But there is one strict rule: No recruiting is allowed during those conferences.

New View: Business and Your Subconscious Author, psychotherapist, and hypnotist Anthony Galie has interviewed hundreds of top salespeople. He believes they have something in common, something that allows them to come to work highly motivated day after day: Their subconscious is completely focused on their goals.

To create your own motivating force: Set your goals, break them down into smaller goals, write those down, read them into a tape machine, and listen to them every day. "The more you focus on your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them," he said. "The more focused you are, the more your perception changes."

To demonstrate a state of total focus, Galie hypnotized several members of the LOA group. For more on Galie and his programs, call (800) 462-5748 or visit www.anthonygalie.com.

Member Property News Orient-Express Hotels The Orient-Express portfolio contains such favorites as the 310-room Charleston Place, which recently added a pool area and rooftop tennis courts and expanded its spa; and the 324-room Windsor Court in New Orleans, which accommodates meetings of up to 400 people. Con-de Nast Traveler named Windsor Court the top hotel in the world. All rooms were renovated recently; new function space is on the drawing board. New in the Orient-Express Group is La Samanna, a "very French" property on St. Martin, says Chuck Magill, Windsor Court's director of marketing. The exclusive 80-room property will be renovated and will add a conference center.

Hotel del Coronado The historic San Diego hotel recently spent $13 million to quadruple the size of its spa and make it an oceanfront complex. The Ocean Tower and Cabana Building are being redone. The 692-room beachfront resort offers 65,000 square feet of meeting space plus a 12,000-square-foot pavilion. Also new: an in-house DMC.

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa A $5 million, 10,000-square-foot spa opened in August with panoramic views of the Bay. Also new at the hotel: four 2,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor VIP/hospitality suites, all looking out over Monterey Bay. The 285-room hotel has 17,000 square feet of meeting space. Plenty of golf is nearby, along with the Monterey Peninsula's scenery and sights.

Ponte Vedra Inn & Club Half an hour south of Jacksonville, Fla., this historic resort is right on the beach. Its "old club" feel was rejuvenated recently with a $20 million upgrade to all 202 rooms and suites, and the expansion of the conference center, which holds up to 400 people. The hotel has two 18-hole golf courses that also are being renovated, and an on-site teambuilding challenge course.

Walt Disney World Resorts Golfers take note: Disney offers 99 holes of golf. Its resorts include the 375-room Boardwalk Inn, the 900-room Grand Floridian Beach Resort, the 1,200-room Yacht & Beach Club, the 1,100-room Contemporary Resort, and the 1,967-room Coronado Springs Resort. Groups also can take advantage of Disney Institute programs.

The Breakers The renowned 572-room Breakers resort has opened its new Oceanfront Spa and Beach Club, including the 15,000-square-foot Ponce de Leon Ballroom. The completely renovated resort has two 18-hole golf courses.

Saddlebrook Resort The newest LOA property, Tampa's Saddlebrook Resort, is renovating all 415 suites and 130 rooms and adding 22,000 square feet of meeting space (for a total of more than 80,000 square feet). Two Arnold Palmer golf courses plus the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy make this a golfer's paradise. And the great lift into Tampa's award-winning airport means easy group movement.

Enchantment Resort Also new to the LOA portfolio, this 200-room resort in Sedona, Arizona's Boynton Canyon, just added a conference center and outdoor function space. A spa will be added by mid-2001, and golf is just 10 minutes away.

Continental Airlines Get a better deal with Continental's zone fares: They require only a one-night stay. Continental's new alliance with Northwest means meeting agreements on Continental are honored on Northwest as well. Contact Linda Ferguson at lfergu2@coair.com

What strikes you as you make the turn down the hill toward the Inn at Bay Harbor is the blue expanse of Little Traverse Bay spread before you. Driving down the gentle grade that used to be a rocky cliff, you pass the Bay Harbor Marina District, a new retail and residential area with a full-service marina. Then the white clapboards and graceful architecture of the Victorian-style Inn come into view.

"The LOA Advisory Board exemplifies the ideal profile of the high-end incentive program for which the Inn at Bay Harbor was designed," says Michael Choiniere, director of marketing, Boyne USA. "The Inn at Bay Harbor will become one of America's most sought-after freshwater yachting, golf, and incentive destinations."

The Inn opened in December 1998, but there is much yet to come. October sees the opening of 14,000 square feet of function space and a full-service spa. A highlight: the top-floor ballroom with a balcony from which guests can watch the sun set into the bay. By fall 2001, the Inn will have its full complement of 250 rooms.

Up the road from the Inn is the Bay Harbor Golf Club, with 27 holes of the Midwest's most exciting golf: the Quarry, the Preserve, and the Links, each nine-hole courses with its own unique flavor. The Quarry, playing through a gorge with ponds and shale cliffs, is a dramatic target course. The Preserve is long and lush (keep an eye out for wildlife), while the Links plays along miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, past bluffs and dunes. (In fact, the Bay Harbor Golf Club courses include the longest freshwater shoreline of any course in the U.S.) New as it is, the Bay Harbor Golf Club has already been ranked eighth in the country by Golf magazine.

An additional 18 holes of championship golf is available adjacent to Bay Harbor at Crooked Tree Golf Club, which plays through towering pines before opening up to bay views on the final nine holes. "The golf was fantastic," says LOA board member Jack Hayes, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Kansas City Life Insurance Company. "They're very scenic courses, with great service in a golfer-friendly environment."

Complementing the Inn at Bay Harbor are Boyne USA's other Michigan properties, Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain, which are also seeing changes. At the Highlands, the second nine holes of the Arthur Hills Course opens in spring 2000; at the Mountain, the 110-suite Mountain Grand Lodge & Spa is in the works. The highlight of the property will be its 20,000-square-foot, full-service spa. Also featured: a 668-seat amphitheater and 15,000-square-foot ballroom. Boyne USA's holdings also include the 420-room Big Sky Ski & Summer Resort in Big Sky, Mont., with the new luxury Summit Hotel opening this summer.