"Go Blackhawks!" and Other Options 2015 Miami Musings

Talk of playoff hockey cooled down the crowd at the annual event, but what else happened?

Like LeBron, Tim has brought his talents back home after a short spell on South Beach.

A lot of interesting issues popped up during this year's Options Industry Conference in Miami Beach. Tim discusses key takeaways and ponders a few improvements for future shows, as well.

As the New York Rangers fans among my colleagues happily remind me, it's playoff hockey season — one of the best times of year — and my Flyers are taking a break from the festivities this year while hopefully hiring uber-coach Mike Babcock away from the Red Wings.

Despite the fact that 2015's Options Industry Conference was held in sunny Miami, reminders of a sport played on ice were well in evidence at the event, too. Of course, much of the options industry is based in these products' modern birthplace, Chicago, and therefore it was obligatory to begin just about every panel with "Go Blackhawks!". The same Blackhawks that beat the Flyers in the the 2010 Stanley Cup Final (on one of the worst, flukiest goals I've ever seen), ending a magical playoff run.

Thankfully, at least one Philadelphia native spoke at the event — and showed his orange and black stripes when he introduced himself as a "long-suffering Flyers fan." Which garnered a golf clap from yours truly.

OIC Reflections

At first, I thought this was all just entertainment. But it got me to thinking about what it says about options, and about the conference, too. Now, to start with, the content this time around was terrific.

I've already written about the major Basel III-related concerns that were voiced, as well as some new developments in cyber security discussed in another panel, and next month's Waters will feature a piece shaped around another potential gamechanger in the SEC's potential rubbishing of Rule 15b9-1, which has long exempted certain HFT market makers from registering with, and reporting to, Finra. We'll also have more on the maturation of institutional auctions in the space, borrowed from retail trading, in the coming week.

Additionally, there was a concerted effort at this year's event to pull in financial advisors and buy sides focused on high-net-worth individuals and family offices, which was an area cited for potential growth last year at the event in Austin, Texas. Well done on that. And the level of technology discussion, for someone like myself, was terrific.

As for suggestions, there are only two. As the legendary John Lothian said during a press lunch, the OIC event is very sparsely covered by the media. Now, it's never going to be as big as FIA Boca — attracting scores of reporters — but you could probably count on two hands (and maybe even one) the total press attending this time around. And that, despite OIC being in Miami.

One of the acknowledged missing pieces to options' expansion is a lack of general understanding, and at times misplaced fear, about how they work. Getting the message out more effectively seems like an incredibly important focus going forward, and like it or not, you need press to do that.

Going back to the Blackhawks for a second, this also relates to the second suggestion: having as much diversity of opinion (including geographical diversity) represented as possible.

As mentioned above, the wealth managers and advisors being on hand was a delight. But like at many industry conferences, it's a struggle getting sufficient institutional buy-side perspective out in the open, and that's always surprised me, because hearing their opinions would benefit just about everyone in attendance.

In any case, next year takes the show to Southern California, and hopefully I'll be fortunate to continue covering options for us out there, where — coincidentally — the Stanley Cup currently resides. And if Anaheim keeps playing the way they are, it may still reside out west a year from now.


Random Thoughts for the Week:

  • When in Miami Beach, if you're looking for somewhere a little up the beach, away from Ocean Drive, and that has a flash of elegance to it, I highly recommend the Matador Room. A Jean-Georges joint, it serves the best fish tacos I've ever had, by far, among other very nice Latin-inspired dishes. It's in the EDITION Hotel. Pure class.
  • I'm not embarrassed to admit that I watched Frozen on the plane ride back to New York (though, fair enough, all of the options available were children's movies). I'd never actually seen it beginning to end, and honestly, it's a cute film, with especially good instructions for a frequently finicky flier like myself. Let it Gooo, Let it Gooo ...
  • In more depressing travel news, I was horrified to read about the Amtrak crash Tuesday night in North Philadelphia, on a curve of track I know quite well as a native Southeastern Pennsylvanian. One couldn't possibly speculate on the cause yet, but the stories of rescue and police personnel are really inspiring. With ridership on trains way up these days, we're seeing more wear and tear on the rails in the US, especially along the Northeast Corridor, and inevitably, more tragic accidents. The train is such a wonderful way to travel; I hope we can bring ourselves to fund the necessary improvements to the infrastructure that's underneath. It's pathetic that, so far, we mostly haven't.
  • Finally, our second New York-based conference of the year, the North American Financial Information Summit (NAFIS), is coming up next week with a great program. While it's primarily an IMD and IRD event, some Waters staff will also be in attendance, and several of the panels are relevant to technologists on the buy side more broadly. Worth a look.
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