Amex CFO Survey Shows Meetings Renaissance

Consistent with other indicators and reports, the numbers that have come out of the new American Express/CFO Research Global Business & Spending Monitor indicate that business (granted it’s the “new normal”) is rebounding. The survey of 479 senior finance executives from the U.S., Europe, Canada, Mexico, Asia, and Australia, shows that they're upbeat about economic growth. And better yet, many are planning to increase spending in areas that will support revenue growth -- like meetings.

For example, a majority (57%) say they'll maintain or increase business travel spending versus 2009. And here are some more details that point to a meetings renaissance:

- 27% plan to loosen restrictions put in place on travel to meet with new clients or for business development;
- 34% of respondents reported that they'll restrict travel for staff meetings or internal business. While that's a pretty big chunk, it's actually much-improved from the
81% who indicated they'd restrict travel for such meetings in 2009;
- only 35% say they plan to limit or cut travel to conferences and events; compare that to the 79% who clamped down on conferences in 2009.

But what I also liked about Amex's new survey was the clear evidence, that, in spite of plans to move forward on meeting spend, senior finance executives are trained on staying fiscally responsible -- even as the economy improves. In fact, a large majority, (85%), expect that over the long term their companies will focus closely on cost control.  

I'm sure that CFOs who took part in Amex's survey are thinking on a much wider scale than meetings and events when they're talking about maintaining management disciplines born during the recession. But some of the same strategies that they mentioned are -- more and more -- now routinely being applied to meeting planning as part of a good strategic meetings management program (SMMP).  For example, it's more important than ever that meeting managers show senior executives ROI for events. I hear this everyday from clients and prospective accounts -- especially since the NBTA study quantified that for every $1 spent on business travel the return is $15. What does the Amex poll say about measuring ROI? More than two-thirds (69%) say that, over the next two years, project and investment ROI requirements will stay in place.

Further, I know that companies are increasingly adopting SMMP automation to holistically save on expenditures across the meetings spectrum, for example, from budgeting and planning to sourcing, attendee management, registration, payment and data analysis.  Similarly, in the Amex survey, senior executives are eying process improvements, such as 44% who say they'll investment more by upgrading technology systems; and 42% will invest more to improve administrative processes such as finance, accounts payable, and procurement.

The Amex survey provides new evidence that businesses recognize the power of meetings and they want to increase spend on events, but it also shows how companies globally have matured when it comes to managing their business and costs. And that's always a good thing.

Kevin Iwamoto is vice president of enterprise strategy at StarCite. This post is syndicated from his blog, Strategic Meetings Management