Despite thinned ranks and a slightly more somber tone, insurance execs attending LIMRA International’s 2001 annual meeting generally conveyed an optimistic attitude toward the future. LIMRA is a worldwide marketing association for insurance and financial services companies.
Turnout was a bit off for the Windsor, Conn.-based conference, held October 28 to 30 in Toronto: About 350-400 insurance and financial services executives attended, down from a more typical crowd of 500, according to LIMRA spokesman Howard Drescher.
"In spite of Sept. 11, it was pretty upbeat," says Bill Tindall, senior vice president of retirement services at American United Life , Indianapolis, and newly elected LIMRA board chairman. Tindall says his colleagues are all responding differently to the economy and events of Sept. 11.
"I think there will be more pressure at company levels for people to watch their discretionary spending, including conferences," Tindall observes. Demonstrating the value of a meeting or incentive will grow increasingly crucial, he adds.
Lynette Owens, whose Rancho Mirage, Calif.-based hotel selection firm caters exclusively to insurance and financial services companies, says she noticed a large falloff in international attendees at this year’s meeting. But those who did show up were decision- makers who were eager to talk about future bookings, she notes.
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," Owens says. "It’s business as usual as far as I can see."
Educational sessions at this year’s meeting explored the conference theme, the "financial genome," focusing on the ongoing evolution of insurance companies into broader financial services firms. "We felt there are many companies around the world that have in fact learned how to ‘crack the marketing genome’ of the global financial services industry," Drescher explains. "We deliberately drew that analogy to the advances in genetics."