The Meeting Escrow story
When it all began...
Meeting Escrow was founded in 2015 by industry veteran, Grant Snider, to provide a risk-management solution for deposits paid in advance by meeting planners to hotels and other vendors for future bookings and services.
Planners were asking, "Why should we pay so much money up front to our vendors? What if something happens before the program starts?"
Vendors were asking, "Why should we wait so long for final payment when we've successfully delivered the services? We're not a bank!"
Meeting Escrow is the Solution
We envisioned using "escrow" (funds held by a trusted 3rd party on behalf two other parties in a transaction and released when conditions are met) as the ideal way to contractually guarantee meeting planner commitments to vendors while holding the funds securely until program delivery. Just like a deposit paid to a lawyer or attorney when you buy a house that gets released when you get the keys.
We wanted the solution to be:
100% equitable for clients and suppliers
The answer? We realised that we needed separate trust accounts for every single client, every single program and every single vendor escrow account. Copies of the bank trust accounts could therefore be distributed to all parties for 100% confidence in the escrow solution.
We engaged the services of Meetings Industry communications firm, SoolNua, to launch our brand, manage our social media channels and website, and publish our monthly newsletters. Aoife (pronounced "Ee-fah") McCrum was named to lead the Meeting Escrow communications.
Additional Financial Expertise
With the addition of Mark Herron, former CEO of Tourism Toronto, as our founding Chief Financial Officer, we added more in-depth reporting, audit compliance and due diligence. Mark adapted our initial escrow contract agreements to the real-life, day-to-day requirements of planners and suppliers. Mark continues his CFO role in an advisory capacity to this day.
Single Vendor Payment Solution
With our business model of separate trust accounts for every client, program and vendor escrow, we now had the capacity to hold funds securely on behalf of a meeting planner's organisation and to manage payments to vendors (i.e. not held in escrow) more efficiently and more cost effectively than doing it internally.
Clients could now reduce their approved payment vendor count from hundreds to just one: Meeting Escrow. This payment solution is highly appealing for procurement, for planners trying to implement (Strategic Meeting Management Programs).
And most importantly, planners could now focus on more important aspects of their meetings and events than tracking and managing payments.
Foreign Currency Services Added
Clients began asking for assistance with shielding their foreign currency budgets from exchange rate fluctuations.
Our solution: extending the trust account model further by providing bank accounts in multiple currencies. 20 currencies to be exact! Clients forward their accrued meeting budget to Meeting Escrow and we immediately convert the funds to the correct currency for the program. All vendor payments are made from the foreign currency account and therefore will never be vulnerable to exchange rate variations.
Wire Transfer Upgrade
Norman Applebaum, with chartered accounting firm Applebaum, Commisso LLP, assumed the critical role of lead wire transfer preparer (for security, all wires require a separate "preparer" and "approver") as well as liaising with our banks.
New Strategic Partners
We were able to further enhance our value proposition to clients by managing their VAT refunds for out-of-country programs, managing the W-8BEN paperwork for our US-based clients and providing event insurance referrals.
New Vice President, Operations
Liz Holtby joined Meeting Escrow in May as our new part-time Vice President, Operations. Liz embodies all of the key values of the company: impeccable credentials, unquestionable honesty, incredible thoroughness and unparalleled attention to detail.
Meeting Escrow App
Our client app development has begun and will be ready for launch in early 2019. We engaged the services of Vancouver-based developers NeoCode Software to execute this important mandate. As the volume of business increases, this will be an invaluable tool for clients and vendors to see at a glance the status of their payments and deposit escrows.
Look for many exciting new developments in the coming months!
Meeting Escrow, now in its 4th year, has had a record-breaking year with new clients coming on board and more and more suppliers accepting the escrow process.
Expanding our Reach
Whenever there is financial uncertainty, there is a need for Meeting Escrow’s services, which has resulted in interest from other sectors, including the mining industry, corporate sponsorship, and general corporate trust accounting.
New Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Cynthia Connelly joined Meeting Escrow in January as Vice President, Sales & Marketing, following a successful career with Accor/Fairmont Hotels. Cynthia brings extensive project management experience supporting world-class incentive programs and international events. Her expertise will be beneficial as we continue to develop our client and supplier relationships.
At the start of this year, we became an exclusive strategic partner with ConferenceDirect. Clients of full-service meetings solution provider, ConferenceDirect, now have a new option for managing vendor deposits and payments.
BestCities Global Alliance Partnership
As of March, Meeting Escrow has been working with BestCities as part of their three-year strategic collaboration, offering their clients a new portfolio of secure payment, foreign currency budget protection and VAT reclaim services for business event clients globally.
We have expanded our banking partnership to include National Bank of Canada, a top 10, Schedule I Canadian chartered bank, to bring our clients additional trust accounting services.
We are excited with the developments that this year has brought us and look forward to the opportunities ahead. Stay tuned!