With the so-called AIG effect in the rearview mirror and the U.S. economy slowly recovering, a recent survey has revealed the current strength and promising future of the insurance and financial services segment of the meetings industry—even though these companies were quickest to cancel their programs in the financial crisis aftermath.

Financial & Insurance Conference Planners sent surveys to senior meetings executives at its member companies in March, and heard back from 91 of those companies—an impressive 40 percent response rate. These executives reported an average meeting budget of just over $3 million annually, and more than 90 percent of them said those budgets will increase or stay the same next year. Companies held an average of 95 meetings in 2011, way up from the average of 67 reported for 2005. Also up was the number of incentive conferences held in 2011 (an average of 50, up from 13 in 2005).

Survey Highlight
$786 million  =  FICP member companies’ estimated combined
annual buying power

 

Niches Within the Niche
FICP split respondents into subcategories: executives from companies that provide insurance and financial services, those from companies that provide insurance services only, and those from companies that provide financial services only. The latter represented 23 percent of respondents, while the other two each represented 37 percent. (Four percent selected "other." This would include, for example, an insurance-related association.) It’s worth noting that in the 2006 FICP survey, only 10 percent of respondents were from financial companies. This is a segment where FICP has focused membership-recruiting efforts, with apparent success. 

Number of Meetings Held in 2011
This represents the greatest divergence among the three types of companies.
219          Financial companies
79            Insurance/Financial companies
54            Insurance companies

FICP member companies are likely to hold a major annual incentive conference, so it’s interesting to look at stats regarding respondents’ largest annual events. One-third spent between $500,000 and $1 million on their largest event in 2011; one-fifth spent between $1 million and $1.5 million; and one-fifth spent more than $1.5 million. Despite an oft-reported trend toward fewer attendees at meetings since the recession, 56 percent of respondents said attendance in 2011 was the same as in 2010, while more than one-third (36 percent) said attendance had increased. These trends were similar when respondents were asked to predict 2012 attendance (69 percent said it would be the same, while 23 percent expected it to increase). Here are some specific averages by type of company:

Largest Annual Meeting

Insurance/
Financial Companies

Budget: $992,000
Attendees: 555
Nights: 3.8
Negotiated Rate: $253

Insurance Companies
Budget: $823,000
Attendees: 403
Nights: 3.6
Negotiated Rate: $253

Financial Companies
Budget: $750,000
Attendees: 485
Nights: 2.9
Negotiated Rate: $215

Meanwhile, these annual meetings are more than likely being held at a resort. Because whatever the buzz in 2009 and 2010, the survey results make clear that this industry has no trouble choosing resorts:

Percentage of Companies That Book Resorts
92 percent            Insurance/Financial companies
87 percent            Insurance companies
76 percent            Financial companies

 

Financial Companies: The Most Tech Savvy?
Financial companies are about twice as likely to have participated in virtual meetings as insurance companies or insurance/financial companies (31 percent versus 14 percent and 16 percent) and also more likely to hold hybrid events (31 percent versus 19 percent for each of the other subgroups). The disparity is even greater with regard to the use of social media to engage attendees: only 10 percent of insurance companies and insurance/financial companies do this, while 31 percent of financial companies do. Specifically, 57 percent of financial companies reported engaging attendees through Internet forums. Blogs had the next-highest impact (43 percent), followed by podcasts (29 percent) and Facebook and Twitter (tied at 25 percent). (Note that LinkedIn was not offered as a choice for this question.)

On the other hand, insurance/financial companies are much more likely to use mobile apps (64 percent) than insurance (33 percent) or financial (43 percent).

 

Third-Party Planners
Insurance and financial services companies are known for keeping meeting management in-house, and their use of third-party meeting planners has stayed consistent since the 2006 survey. At that time, 44 percent of respondents used third parties; in 2012, the number is up to 48 percent. However, 12 percent of respondents expect to decrease the amount they use third parties in the next 12 months. And even though few companies are adding employees to meeting departments, only 8 percent of respondents expect to increase their use of third parties in the next 12 months.

What services are handled completely in-house?
86%            Marketing/Promotion                      
82%            Financial Management/Contract Negotiation
73%            On-Site Support Staff
65%            Site Selection
64%            Registration
63%            Speaker Selection/Management
34%            Travel
12%            AV/Production

 

DMCs Are In!
The number of respondents who use destination management companies is down from 97 percent in 2006 to 90 percent in 2012. But that’s still 9 out of 10 companies—a solid partnership. The lower response could be the result of the increased number of financial companies in this survey. Of these, two-thirds report using DMCs, while 97 percent of each of the other two subgroups use them.

What DMCs do for you
94%            Transportation
89%            Activities/Tours
79%            Décor
75%            Entertainment
69%            Meet & Greet
50%            On-Site Support Staff
6%              Other

 

Speakers: Not So Funny Anymore?
More than three out of four respondents (78 percent) use outside speakers. Since the 2006 survey, there has been a shift in the types of speakers hired. “Business/author” speakers are 17 percent more popular now, while “humor/entertainment” speakers are 20 percent less popular. As for how much companies pay speakers, respondents were able to choose more than one price range—and most of them did. The most common range was between $10,000 and $19,000 (71 percent of respondents); however, nearly half have paid less than $5,000 and one-third have paid more than $40,000.

 

About the Study
The FICP Economic Impact Study was facilitated
through an independent research consultant in March. View the executive summary at the FICP Web site.