More than 200 attendees, including 74 planners, have arrived at The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, for the 2014 Financial & Insurance Conference Planners Education Forum. They’re enjoying a warm (well, hot) welcome from a resilient, fascinating, unique city, one with its own “way of life,” as native son and opening keynote speaker James Carville put it. “We have our own food, our own music, our own literature, our own funerals, our own social structure, our own architecture, and we would give up none of that for less humidity in the summer,” he said. “More than in any city in the U.S., here you are in a culture.”

FICP Growth
2014 FICP Chair Jana Stern of ING opened the conference by sharing news of the association’s growth. With 92 new planner members in 2014 (through May), total membership stands at 698 planners from 218 financial and insurance companies. FICP is particularly proud of the 7 percent growth in companies compared to this time last year, as increasing the number of member companies is one of the association’s current goals.

Stern also introduced FICP’s year-round app, developed with Genie Connect and available at the Google and Apple app stores.

“The continued growth of FICP membership and hospitality partner participation caused us to expand the capacity of the Education Forum,” said FICP Executive Director Steve Bova, CAE. Indeed, the event quickly sold out and attendance is the highest of any Education Forum in FICP history. “In order to accommodate demand, FICP is offering five face-to-face events in 2014. Next up is the Summer Symposium, August 21–23 at the Omni King Edward in Toronto; followed by the Fall Symposium September 7–9 at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage; and then the Annual Conference November 16–19 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Waikoloa, Hawaii. We’re already planning our events for next year, and by the time of the annual conference, we will announce the dates and sites for 2015.”

“She Speaks English, He Doesn’t”
That was one of the differences between political couple Mary Matalin and James Carville highlighted in the introduction to their joint keynote address, which sparkled with humor about marriage, parenting, and politics. (Carville says Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016, and the Republican candidate will be either Rick Perry or Mitt Romney; Matalin says Hillary won’t run and the Republican candidate will be a Republican governor—at the top of her list is Scott Walker—and won’t be Mitt Romney.)

Photo by Specialty Imaging

Carville’s New Orleans accent was in fact a little hard to understand at times, but his passion for his home city came through clearly—a passion that Matalin shares. Carville pointed to the growth that has happened since “the storm,” August 29, 2005, including that there are more street bands than ever. “Street bands are how our music starts. It doesn’t start at the conservatory. It’s passed down from father to son and uncle to nephew and aunt to niece. You can’t miss one generation or you lose everything.” Through the donations of instruments after Hurricane Katrina, which washed so many instruments away, this generation was not missed and is in fact a “golden era” of street bands, he said. “Our culture is not just strong. It’s getting stronger.”

FICP attendees will be immersing themselves in that culture at the historic Ritz-Carlton through June 20.