DID YOU KNOW that the Insurance Conference Planners Association no longer exists?

Okay, I wanted to get your attention, but the truth is that ICPA officially changed its name two years ago, when members at the annual meeting in Seattle voted to nix “Insurance Conference Planners Association” in favor of “ICPA, an association of insurance and financial services conference planners.” The decision was part of a long-term strategic plan to open the membership to the greater financial services community. It was only the beginning of a sea change that resulted in the ICPA headquarters moving from Vancouver to Chicago, with a new management team headed up by ICPA Executive Director Steve Bova of SmithBucklin, the country's leading association management firm, as of May 3.

Everyone who knows ICPA's former Executive Director Karen Hopkinson and Executive Assistant Helen Peters will miss their warmth, humor, and unfailing good cheer. Formerly a meeting planner with a life insurance company, Hopkinson took the helm of ICPA back in 1985 when the association voted to change its business model from a member-run society to an independently run society. In the nearly 20 years since, “our model has served us well,” says ICPA president Debbie Boschee, Prudential Financial. “But,” she adds, “we had to make a change to take the association to the next level — to help current members sell the value of ICPA to their companies, and to bring in new members from the financial services community.”

Proactive Change

This was not an easy decision for the ICPA board, but it was the right one. A proactive change now will help the association move forward far better than a reactive change somewhere down the road. No one wants to lose the intimacy and strong member-to-member communication that ICPA is known for, but as Boschee says, “It can't be just business as usual, or ICPA will disappear.”

ICPA is strong, but it's also stuck: The membership base of about 400 planners has been stable but not growing, and financial services planners have been slow to join. ICPA needs to get the message out loud and clear that the unmatched industry networking it offers is a big business benefit for financial services planners. Most important, it needs to continue to strengthen and promote industry-specific educational content at its national and regional meetings.

A New Corporate Landscape

Staying on top of what planners need to know in the ever-changing insurance and financial services landscape is also a priority for ICP magazine. Consider the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, for example. Many of you work for publicly held companies. Are you aware that new requirements of the act taking effect this summer could mean tighter documentation requirements for purchasing such items as meeting space, hotel rooms, airline tickets, and food and beverage? Please turn to page 14 for more information.

Like ICPA, ICP magazine has expanded its focus to the financial services arena. Washington Mutual, the subject of our cover story, grew from a small state bank 15 years ago to the sixth-largest financial institution holding company in the country. But despite the company's success and the proven track record of its state-of-the-art mega-meeting for managers, the WaMu planning team had to slash $2 million from the $7.1 million meeting budget just four months out. To find out how they did it, while also meeting or exceeding their strategic objectives, go to page 26. It's a terrific example of how dealing with change proactively can help an organization forge its future.