From membership that is up 9 percent to big budget numbers reported in FICP's first Economic Impact Survey the vitality of the financial and insurance meetings industry was evident at the FICP Annual Conference, held in November in Las Vegas.

More than 200 planners and 370 hospitality partners spent three and a half days learning, networking, and enjoying the stellar service of Caesars Palace, host hotel for the event. “The theme of this year's conference is Evolve: A New Beginning, an appropriate theme for our association, which has undergone quite an evolution over the past few years,” said FICP President Michael Burke, CMP, manager, conference and travel services, Hanover Insurance, welcoming attendees at the opening general session. “And, it's an appropriate theme for all of us as we look to evolve ourselves, our roles, and our industry.”

Having introduced the association's new name at the 2005 Annual Conference, Burke took time this year to introduce FICP's improved Web site, which goes live at the end of January. Redesigned with oversight by FICP's Web Site Committee, headed by Cindy Wheaton, CMP, manager, group meetings and incentives, Nationwide Financial Network, the new site was created to deliver on the promise that “whatever you need is never more than three clicks away,” Burke said. Check it out at

New Board and HPC Members Announced

Sharon Chapman, CMP, CMM, travel and corporate events planner, Berkshire Life Insurance Co., took over as FICP president on the final day of the conference. “I am so passionate about this organization,” an earnest Chapman said in her first address to members as president. “FICP represents half a century of member-driven culture, and our membership has never been stronger. Our retention rate is the highest it's ever been.”

Part of that success is due to the increasing activity on the regional level, and in recognition of that, the FICP board is focusing more attention on the regional chapters, including introducing this year the position of VP, chapter relations, to the board of directors. Filling that role is Karyn Rizzo, CMP, senior meetings consultant, Sun Life Financial in Wellesley, Mass. (formerly VP, education). The board also recently approved a set of policies, based on chapter leader feedback, that will create more consistency among the chapters, especially in securing sponsorships, handling chapter funds, and ensuring succession planning.

Chapman also announced the newly named board members. They are Kim Boriin, CMP, senior project specialist, Guardian Investor Services, in New York, N.Y., who will serve as VP, education; Morgan Murphy, CMP, assistant vice president, meetings and media services, Bankers Life and Casualty Co., Chicago, who becomes VP, communications; and Dan Young, CMP, CLU, ChFC, LLIF, director of event planning, Thrivent Financial, Minneapolis, who is the new VP, membership. Joining Rizzo in continuing their terms on the board are Paul Eder, CLU, CPA, ChFC, vice president, agency services, meetings and incentives, Protective Life Insurance Co., who will continue as VP, finance; Cindy Wheaton, CMP, manager, group meetings and incentives, Nationwide Financial Network, who becomes VP, sponsorship; Patricia Kerr, CMP, director, conference planning and recognition, Manulife Financial, who was named president-elect; and Michael Burke, CMP, past president.

Finally, Chapman extended a special note of thanks to Stephen Clark, CMP, an independent contractor with Deloitte Services, who volunteered his time to lead this year's annual meeting after the resignation of John Touchette, the FICP past president who left the insurance industry.

Hospitality Partner Committee Chairperson Pam Ferguson, director of insurance sales, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., Chicago, announced three new HPC members, explaining that a “wild card” position has been created, increasing the HPC to seven members. This new position will be filled by a supplier from a discipline outside those currently earmarked for HPC slots. First to fill that position is Bill Hopkins of Hopkins Entertainment. Also named to the HPC at the meeting were Jack Gage, CMP, director of insurance and incentive sales, The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, and Jessica Phillips, director of worldwide accounts, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Scottsdale. Patrick Sullivan, president, PRA Destination Management New York, is the new HPC chairperson.

Spirit of Giving

FICP's silent auction this year raised nearly $45,000. An emotional Ted Giza, director of development for The Shade Tree in Las Vegas, accepted a check for the proceeds. “The Shade Tree is a shelter for women and children in crisis, but it is also a life-changing experience,” Giza told the audience, emphasizing that the shelter helps residents regain “dignity, self-reliance, and stability” and offers “not pity, but hope.”

Call for Involvement

FICP President Michael Burke thanked the many volunteers who served on committees in the past year, and invited others to get involved. “In 2006 we formed, or enhanced, several committees representing membership and hospitality partners,” he noted. “These committees include membership, nominating, sponsorship, Web site, education, finance, educational forum design team, annual meeting design team, and regional chapter leaders. Never before have we had so many opportunities for volunteers.” Get the specifics at