IBIS Academy History

Global Benefits, HR and Mobility conference began as an effort by professionals to learn and share ideas about the employee benefits industry

As the premier conference for Global Benefits, HR and Mobility professionals, IBIS Academy provides educational and networking opportunities for seasoned professionals who want to stay abreast of the latest trends, as well as for those who are new to global benefits and HR.

Previous IBIS Academy locations

With the exception of virtual conferences held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, delegates have been able to attend this esteemed conference for 50 years all over the world.

The history of IBIS conferences

The first IBIS Conference was held in Brussels, Belgium, in 1971, at a time when, as International Benefits Information Service (IBIS) founder Bruce Spencer recalls, "the general public didn't know what a pension was."

A half-century later, the IBIS Academy is the most respected and longest-running international conference for global human resources and international employee benefits professionals.

How the Global Benefits conference got its start

Back in 1971, some 85 Employee Benefits specialists from the U.S., Canada and most western European countries gathered in Brussels to discuss the various trends and practices of the nascent global employee benefits industry. Spencer said it "was really a gathering of people who wanted to be part of the discussion and who wanted to share their ideas and opinions on the issues and concerns we were all facing."

At that time, there were only six member countries in what was then called the European Community, but they already had problems coordinating social security benefits for the people in those countries. Annette Bosscher, who was responsible for coordinating the benefits for the European Commission, came to the IBIS Conference to explain how the system worked.

Looking back, Spencer recalls a special meeting in November 1989. "Walter Kruijswick, who worked with [European food company] Jacobs Suchard, took the podium to speak. He looked over the audience, threw away his notes and instead began to speak about what had just occurred the previous night — the fall of the Berlin Wall — and what that meant to the world. Mr. Kruijswick was old enough to have witnessed the Communist takeover from the Second World War on out, and his observations and reflections made for a very memorable experience."

The birth of the IBIS Institute

In one of the earlier IBIS conferences, Spencer and his partners introduced a training session for HR executives who were just starting to be involved with employee benefits. That session grew into what is now known as the IBIS Institute, a multiple-day program designed for the training and certification of employee benefits specialists.

Recalling the first IBIS Institute, Spencer remembers: "It was in London, and I remember the hotel had lost all heat in the meeting room and we were all sitting there freezing to death in January. They brought these huge heating fans into a ballroom even though there were only 25 or 30 people there. And while it was not exactly the best of circumstances, we all stuck with it."

Events merge to become IBIS Academy

Richard Polak, an international benefits specialist with more than 30 years' experience who founded his own international HR consulting firm over 15 years ago, acquired IBIS in 2003 and with it, the IBIS Conference and IBIS Institute.

Believing that experienced Human Resources executives and those just starting out in the global employee benefits field could benefit from interacting with one another, Polak brought the IBIS Conference and the IBIS Institute together into one meeting, renamed the IBIS Academy, in Paris in 2007.

In 2012, Arthur J. Gallagher& Company acquired IBIS, and with Gallagher's enthusiastic support, the tradition continues.

IBIS Academy remains focused on global HR, Benefits and Mobility

Through the years, the IBIS Academy has remained the most respected and longest-running international conference for global Human Resources and international Employee Benefits professionals, and a new resource for Global Mobility executives.

The three tracks of the IBIS Academy promote industry growth and provide multinationals with knowledge and resources on international pensions and employee benefits in markets around the world, and up-to-date information on global mobility trends, offering unrivaled learning opportunities and an invigorating symposium experience.

Delegates from around the globe attend the IBIS Academy, including the American Benefits Council, which has held its Global Benefits Committee meeting at IBIS Academy each year since 2009.