This year’s ACORD LOMA Insurance Systems Forum amply demonstrated that, despite some good efforts and improvements, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
ACORD reports that attendance at this year’s event was “on a par” with 2010, which, considering the continuing sorry state of the economy, is a testament to the show’s drawing power. My informal survey of the exhibitors at the conference, however, revealed that while there has been improvement in some areas, issues from previous shows remain a challenge.
So while certain problems persist, there are hopeful signs for the Forum. The sessions I attended were of excellent quality. This is a key point, since the Forum was designed to provide a one-stop educational and networking opportunity to insurers.
But part of that educational and networking opportunity includes the chance for insurers to learn about the latest technologies that can improve their livelihood. Yet, the ratio of vendor attendees to insurance company registrants has been a problem in past years with exhibitors, and the complaints continued to be widespread in 2011.
While ACORD and LOMA released no official numbers, some workers on the show floor told me they thought the ratio of floor traffic was 70% to 80% vendors to 20% to 30% others. For some vendors that was welcome news, because their business is partly or wholly selling products or services to other vendors. But for the majority who were seeking to gain the attention of carrier attendees, this was not a happy situation.
A number of vendors did qualify that, however, by noting that while the number of insurance company contacts was low, the quality of those contacts was very good. Indeed, ACORD said in a news release that there was an increase in C-level and senior vice president-level attendees, due in part to this being the second year of the show’s CIO Forum.
Many exhibitors commented that the exhibit floor seemed smaller in 2011, but that may have been due to the cavernous space in which the exhibits were situated. Again, actual numbers of exhibitors and size of booth exhibits versus last year were not available. ACORD did say that sponsorship saw increases in 2011, with more sponsors at higher levels, as well as more media sponsors.
By far the biggest complaint continues to be that the ACORD LOMA Forum is scheduled so close to the industry’s other big technology conference, IASA (which is set for June 5-8 in Nashville). Typical remarks involved the cost and staffing needed to set up and break down booths for both shows within such a tight time frame. Several said that if this situation continues, they will be forced to make a choice between the shows due to marketing schedules and budgetary considerations.
Almost universally, exhibitors favored moving the ACORD LOMA event to the fall, perhaps filling the October-November dates formerly taken by ISOTech, or to an earlier spring date, the customary time of the former LOMA Insurance Systems Forum. When I asked Chad Hersh, Principal at Novarica, what he thought about a potential date change, he told me, “I’ve heard worse ideas.”
ACORD officials told me that such a move would not be possible for some time, however, with dates and locations already locked in for several years to come. That makes sense, but if you want to move the event at some point, there needs to be a new date and contract three or five years out, as circumstances and contracts allow. My sources tell me, however, that they know of no such discussions or plans by ACORD or LOMA.
In more hopeful developments, ACORD said the Systems Forum had taken on more of an international flavor in 2011, with “significant increases” in the number of attendees from Australia, Canada, India and the UK. Another demographic group that was “unexpectedly high” this year was first-time attendees.
Going forward, the key for ACORD and LOMA will be to find new solutions to traditional challenges in order to meet the needs of the vendor community and the industry overall.
Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.
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