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Katherine Burger
Katherine Burger
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BAI Redirects Focus

In an era of e-mail, blogs, podcasts and mobile communications—not to mention 24/7 work demands—what do bank executives want from a trade show (assuming they even still want to attend these traditional "one-stop-shopping" events)? The Chicago-based Bank Administration Institute will be grappling with this question as it works to revive its languishing Retail Delivery conference and simultaneously broaden the organization's focus beyond strictly retail banking to embrace the expanding world of enterprise payments.

BAI's actions follow a 2005 Retail Delivery event that was considered by many observers to be short on attendees, compelling content and overall "buzz." Acknowledging the concerns, BAI president and CEO Deborah Bianucci says, "Retail Delivery remains the biggest conference in the industry, but it's not growing the way we want it to grow. It needs to thrive in a way that will deliver excitement, not just for the bankers, but also the solution providers."

The stagnation reflects not just changes in the event business, but also changes in the way bank executives are able to obtain information, she adds. "There are alternatives that people have today to get information that they need that they didn't even have five years ago," she says. "The days of conferences that were more perk-like are gone, and where information is light they will not be strongly attended. Although technology has been an important part of the conference, it hasn't been a driver of the content. That will be a big focus in 2006."

As if this wasn't enough, BAI also had to deal with a sudden change of venue when Hurricane Katrina wiped out the scheduled location in New Orleans. Fortunately, a change of venue to the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, where the conference will run Nov. 14-17, was accomplished relatively quickly.

Also in 2006, BAI will focus on "the changing landscape of payments and the impact it has on bank profits," Bianucci reports. "BAI's legacy in the payments arena has been around check processing. In the past two to three years, that has evolved to go beyond checks. We've put major resources into an initiative that would jumpstart that even further," she adds. A key element in this effort will be BAI's first payment study, concentrating on small business customer perspectives on an array of payments issues, which will be introduced at its 2006 TransPay Conference & Expo (Paris Las Vegas Hotel, May 23-25). --Katherine Burger

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