It's an executive-level meeting that could also include a culinary tour or a skeet shooting excursion in the Appalachian Mountains.
September marks the end of convention season for state and regional banking associations. Most banking groups hold their annual meetings throughout the summer, strategically tucked in between national conventions in early spring and late fall.
These conventions give bankers access to educational opportunities and a forum to network, but they also provide executives with a short respite from the office. But upscale perks, ranging from wine tastings to falconry lessons, are also a key selling point.
Exclusive venues are more in demand now that the banking industry has regained its footing, industry observers said.
"Things are kind of coming back," said Meghan McCarten, a consultant who plans conferences and executive retreats for the financial services and technology industries.
Executives are showing "more interest" in nicer locales, McCarten said. Bankers, who thought it a "boondoggle" to make pricey travel plans a few years ago, are more open to making a trek to attend certain conferences.
The shift comes as banks, on average, are becoming more profitable. Earnings across the industry rose 7% in the second quarter from a year earlier, to $43 billion, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Profit at community banks increased by 12% over that time.
A number of banking associations held their 2015 conferences at swanky locations.
The Alabama Bankers Association, for instance, held its June annual convention at The Greenbrier, a luxury resort in West Virginia's Allegheny Mountains. The Ohio Bankers League and the Illinois League of Financial Institutions pooled their resources to host a joint convention at the Belmond Charleston Place in Charleston, S.C., earlier this month.
Choosing a desirable location is important, industry observers said. A quiet getaway, particularly in a smaller city, encourages bankers to stay on site and spend more time networking, said Mike Adelman, chief executive of the Ohio Bankers League.
"It's difficult for bankers to be present because there's just so much demanding of our time," Adelman said, noting that a key goal for organizers is to hold the attention of attendees.
The Ohio and Illinois associations offered sessions on Apple Pay and cybersecurity. Attendees were also able to sign up for tours of the Boone Hall plantation or to attend a class on the art of sweet-grass basket weaving.
Bankers from Ohio and Illinois were encouraged to bring their spouses to the four-day event. "That dials up the fun quotient," Adelman said, noting that previous joint conventions have been held in downtown hotels in cities such as Baltimore and Boston. Two years ago, the associations for Ohio and West Virginia held a joint convention at The Greenbrier.
The Alabama Bankers Association did not respond to a request for comment.
The banking industry has a long history of showcasing style and fanfare at annual conventions.
For previous generations, bankers' conventions were "elegant" affairs, said Ann Winkel, vice president of education for the Iowa Bankers Association. "It was a big deal to go to Des Moines for the annual convention."
At each of its annual conventions, the Iowa Bankers Association reflects on conventions from 50 years ago. Old photos show men in three-piece suits and women in white gloves. At one time, the association even hosted a style show with New York models, Winkel said.
Local papers would run photos of bankers at Ohio's annual convention, Adelman said.
"It was this big, big deal," Adelman said, describing the convention experience of his father's generation. "There was certainly some fun and sightseeing."
Still, some banking groups have taken a more modest — but still celebratory — approach to convention planning.
The Iowa and Indiana bankers associations, for instance, keep their conventions in their home states with a goal of promoting local businesses.
"Our board feels very strongly about economic development in our state," said Christina Bennett, the Indiana Bankers Association's director of events.
The Indiana Bankers Association convention was held last week at the French Lick Resort. In addition to panel discussions, the event featured an "escape to the islands" themed dinner, where bankers were encouraged to wear Hawaiian attire, and a late-night euchre tournament.
The Iowa Bankers Association keeps a relatively consistent agenda each year, hosting events such as an agricultural banking breakfast and legislative update, Winkel said. Special events at this year's convention included an on-stage performance of "Dirty Dancing."
"There's a lot of tradition, and I think that's really important," Winkel said. "A lot of the bankers are from communities that they've helped shape and mold and been a part of their whole lives … so I think that carries through."