WE EDITORS are always sniffing around for trends; it's as natural as brushing our teeth to ask sources about changes in the workplace. One of my best places for learning what's new is at customer advisory boards for insurance and financial services planners. I'm privileged to be invited to attend many of these forums, where you'll see me industriously taking off-the-record notes and, inevitably, asking you to fill me in on the latest developments in your department and in your company.

Here's a rather distressing heads-up gleaned from some of my recent advisory-board conversations: You may soon be asked to become the compliance police. Yup, just when industry planners are beginning to emerge from multiyear efforts to hammer out working relationships with procurement, you're hit with a new adversary — oops, sorry, I mean partner — your compliance department.

One veteran meeting professional who works for a large financial services firm told me that about six months ago her department was given the mandate to make sure all corporate meetings and incentive programs met NASD guidelines. This is no easy task, particularly as some of the guidelines issued by this agency that regulates securities and annuities are open to interpretation. Still, “planners are being asked to become compliance police,” she said.

Another planner was stunned recently when her CEO — responding to negative headlines about insurance industry excess and a possible interpretation of the SEC's gift-giving regulations — put forth an order that attendees at an annual insurance meeting should pay for all of their recreational activities. “I'm skeptical,” said the planner, “that attendees will be willing to pay for what the company picked up in the past.”

Unfortunately, I think we'll be seeing NASD, SEC, and state legislative compliance playing an ever-increasing role in industry meetings. That's why we've initiated ongoing regulatory updates in the pages of ICP and in our monthly e-newsletter, On the Agenda. (To subscribe to On the Agenda, go to icp.meetingsnet.com). Ever the optimist, I can only hope that the various agencies will one day put their heads together to make the regulations clear

Elements of a Great Meeting

The industry forums I've attended recently also got me thinking about what makes a great meeting. At the Krisam Insurance Advisory Board, June 2 to 5 at the lovely Charleston Place Hotel in Charleston, S.C., our group of 11 planners, six hoteliers, and two Krisam Group hosts, president Jim Schultenover and vice president Doris Dallow, left the meeting “on a high,” as one attendee said. As for me, I walked away invigorated, with more energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge than I came with.

The format of our business meetings was simple: We met in a conference room large enough so that people weren't scrunched together, and we talked for nearly four hours. There were no PowerPoint presentations or guest speakers. With such a small group, each person had a chance to share thoughts about the challenges they face on a daily basis, and moderator Jim Schultenover kept the conversation moving and the issue-oriented agenda on track. There was lots of interaction, but there were no lengthy diatribes. Schultenover also did an excellent job summarizing key points before moving on to the next topic. A cordial and open atmosphere encouraged everyone to speak frankly.

A frank and open atmosphere is also what we aspire to in the pages of ICP magazine. Please shoot me a quick e-mail and let me know what you'd like to see covered in future editions.

Enjoy the issue, and have a wonderful summer.

Regina Baraban, Editor
rbaraban@primediabusiness.com