Global financial giant Bank of America in September 2004 rolled out an enterprisewide strategic meetings management policy to funnel all events that cost $10,000 or more through a central meetings and event department. BOA expects adoption rates this year to hit 80 percent to 90 percent, with the help of three years of detailed meetings spend data tracking.
Dana Catchpole, BOA vice president and supplier manager for meeting and event management, declined to specify the company's total meeting spend, but said the bank holds a significant number of events with the largest incentive meeting attracting more than 1,000 attendees.
"We have several policies in place. We're in a very cost-conscious environment at the bank right now and have been moving that way for several years," Catchpole said. Events that fall below the $10,000 mark are handled locally, he said, but larger meetings are handled by about eight incentive meeting planners and 30 strategic meeting planners that make up the meetings and events department.
"For anything that was $10,000 and above, we had a policy that indicated that my department had to source and negotiate all vendor contracts in the meeting and event environment. We did have a caveat that if it was 25 or more room nights or included group air of 25 or more, they had to come through our department as well," Catchpole said.
In the four months since the policy was put in place, Catchpole said he has seen adoption rates rise from about 55 percent to an estimated 65 percent or 70 percent, supported by the use of WorldTravel Meetings & Incentives' Plan2Attend meetings management tool to track cost savings. WTMI is the meetings management arm of Atlanta-based WorldTravel BTI.
"We've been tracking data for about three years, so we had a three-year history of what the actual savings were and what the savings potential could be if we increased that compliance around it," Catchpole said. "We're really moving toward what I would call a total meetings-consolidated environment."
With Plan2Attend's planning and purchasing module (Meetings Today, Dec. 6, 2004),
which Catchpole said his company was instrumental in helping to design and test, BOA tracks the average per-meeting and per-attendee spend and overall savings.
"I like to break it down even further by commodity," Catchpole said. "If you look at group hotel, audio/visual, food and beverage, catering and destination management company spend, I try to focus on the specific savings percentages by commodity and what opportunities lie within those different buckets."
BOA first adopted Plan2Attend three-and-a-half years ago, Catchpole said, and every six months to one year conducted reviews of the bank's needs and the technology. BOA is not "married" to one tech product, he said, but the company's relationship with WTMI is strong. Plan2Attend's attendee management module also is heavily used, Catchpole said, and BOA is interested in integrating an online air booking function into its meeting registration process by the fourth quarter of this year. Currently, a link on the meeting registration Web site connects the attendee with BOA's corporate travel provider. BOA has an agreement with Sabre Holdings' GetThere subsidiary for its corporate transient self-booking, Catchpole said.
"We would like in another one of our technology improvements to see a group online booking tool. That's a strong focus for us. We would like the attendee to be able to pick the flights that they want," Catchpole said.
Catchpole said the online air-booking product that will meet all of BOA's needs has not yet been developed. Industry trends, including global distribution system deregulation and fare restructuring from Delta Air Lines and other legacy carriers (see story),
also have pushed the development of better online air booking tools, he said.
"We are aggressively pushing those tech companies with which we have agreements with to focus on this tool. We feel that it will not only benefit the bank, but that it's an industry staple in the future that they should be focusing on," Catchpole said.
BOA leverages its corporate transient travel and event travel spend for both hotel and air agreements, Catchpole said, and the data is tracked on one system. The bank also uses a list of preferred vendors and is in the process of putting together a standard group hotel request for proposal. Catchpole said the meetings and events group is in the process of deciding which hotel vendors align best with BOA's meetings mix and offer the best pricing.
"We look at everything globally; that's our focus and that's our size and we capture as much spend as possible to leverage the maximum amount for the company," Catchpole said.
For payment, BOA uses an internally developed purchasing card that is heavily used by the meetings and events department to immediately track data. A standard check-request process is in place for vendors that do not accept the purchasing card.
For a large financial company such as BOA, Catchpole said security is also an issue for the meeting and events department. Security and contingency plans are put in place in pre-meeting briefings and planners work with the corporate travel department to track where company travelers should be at any given time.
New legal requirements like Sarbanes-Oxley also have affected meeting planning at BOA, and Catchpole said the guidelines have helped to increase compliance with corporate meetings management policies.
"From my perspective, it's enhanced our opportunity to get compliance and policies in place, because the spirit of the language is really directed at ensuring that companies are doing the right thing with their spend and taxes. We don't throw it around a lot, but it's there, and we use it to support our initiatives when we need to," Catchpole said.