While there are many hot topics and trends discussions that we SHOULD be talking about after the recently-concluded ACORD-LOMA 2013 Show, unfortunately the most prevalent conversation is one about why there were no attendees on the show floor. Exhibitors were openly discussing this development (or lack thereof) at every restaurant, bar and coffee shop in the MGM Grand, and only a select few people had the answer to the question, “O attendees where art thou?”

While no doubt the sheer numbers that this show had ten years ago were not evident in Vegas this time around, I found attendees from insurance organizations engaged in every discussion session.  Comments from Sun Life Financial, Mass Mutual, Prudential, and The Hartford were among those that punctuated the social media discussion led by Celent’s Mike Fitzgerald.  Scottsdale, a Nationwide subsidiary, spoke out in the debate about “cutting edge, bleeding edge or on the edge” led by Bill Hartnett, and Andy Harrison of Great American presented a case study on the implementation of their compensation/commission management system with Karlyn Carnahan of Novarica which resulted in a very robust Q&A segment at the end of the session.

All the industry analysts were in attendance, including Matt Josefowicz of Novarica (who has seemingly seriously reduced his event schedule in the past two years), and Craig Weber of Celent (who took over as CEO of the company’s global insurance practice and now has less time for fun in Vegas). Deb Smallwood, founder of SMA, along with her counterparts Karen Furtado and Mark Breading were everywhere it seemed, and even Karen Pauli of Tower Group was there (in spite of industry confusion on whether Tower is still actually functioning as an analyst firm or as a vendor evaluation firm). I passed Kimberly Harris-Ferrante and Jeff Haner of Gartner in multiple hallways, but never managed to connect. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for conversations about Gartner’s latest policy management and claims reports since this is the first face-to-face opportunity to talk with the Gartner team most vendors have had recently.

ACORD-LOMA went old school with an analyst panel just before the closing general session, roping in Chuck Johnston of Celent, Kimberly Harris-Ferrante of Gartner and Matt Josefowicz of Novarica. It was strangely reminiscent of the days when Chuck was with META, Matt was with Celent and Kimberly was with, well, Gartner…:)

What’s working at this show? They really get the sessions right. The session rooms were packed (partly because they divide attendees between fewer concurrent sessions in any given time slot – smart move). The hottest topics I heard about in session rooms included (in no particular order):

  1. Social Media (loved the discussion on ethics, responsibility and utilization of social data in HR, claims, and underwriting)
  2. Mobile Technology/Apps (who would have thought privacy would be part of THIS conversation)
  3. Analytics (no one needs another fancy pie chart)
  4. Telematics/UBI (whoa big fella, Progressive wants to talk to you, oh and your billing system can’t handle this)
  5. e-Signatures (life is more interested than P&C)
  6. Customer Experience (almost every tech company out there has a claim to fame in this arena)

As expected, there were multiple sessions (probably too many – but that’s not a problem unique to ACORD-LOMA) with “innovation” in the title, and perhaps unexpectedly, discussions about cloud were fewer and further between than at the close of last year. Another thing this show seems to do well is sit at the intersection of carriers and agents, perhaps due to the relationship with ACT and AUGIE. There is a good mix of vendor companies at this show with agent-focused offerings, as well as those targeting carriers. And, this empowers different voices in sessions on the evolution of distribution channels, agency management, real-time connectivity, collaboration and portals.

Anyway, at the end of the day MGM (like every other property in Vegas) put the conference center too far from the rooms.  I came home with a stack of business cards, notes to translate, new Twitter followers, and blisters…:)  I met a few new people face-to-face, and it was great to see old friends.

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