The Sun Goes Down on SIFMA 2011

Anthony Malakian, deputy editor, Buy-Side Technology

I started working for Waters a relatively short time ago—October 2009. One of the first things my colleagues told me was how chaotic the week of Sifma's Financial Services Technology Leaders Forum and Expo (known simply as “Sifma,” or these days, \#Sifma) can be.

Last year, I approached the event with a certain level of dread. But, to my surprise, I found it to be enlightening and the after-parties were a lot of fun. This year was no different.

But now the show is over, the vendor giveaways have been scooped up, the business cards have been scanned, the canapés have been consumed and the open bars are closed ’til next June. It’s Friday, and—like last year—I’m knackered, as my British friends say. So, what better time to share my takeaways from the event?

First, let me say that I love Sifma. As a journalist, this event is a valuable tool for catching up with old contacts, meeting new ones and hearing about the latest trends. But there is no denying that the show is getting smaller each year—or is at least losing some of its eminence.

I heard complaints that there were not as many people walking around wearing white badges—indicating end-users—and that there weren't as many startup vendors at the show this year as in years past.

Coming over from the non-technology world, this was only my second Sifma. The one thing I can say for sure is that Bridges Bar wasn't nearly as packed as it was last year—at least not during the day—for meetings.

One theory—from a vendor, no less, who had a stand at the show last year—is that technology is actually hurting the Sifma event. It is far less costly to simply demo your product over the internet than to pay for the space, labor and setup/shipping fees surrounding having a booth. That could be pure BS, but there seems to be some logic to it.

As for me, even if only 100 people show up, I'm going to keep on coming to this event for as long as I'm working in financial technology.

Second, I definitely need a break from hearing about anything related to cloud computing after all the cloud-related news from this week. Believe me, I understand that cloud is a staple of our technology coverage, but at this point I'd much rather hear about US congressman Anthony Weiner's eponymous body part than about the latest and greatest of cloud.

Third, after attending Sifma I'm not sure what to think about how buy-side firms are viewing the challenges that will arise from being compliant with Dodd–Frank—but this makes sense since the regulations themselves are so complex.

My general feeling is that the majority of firms in the US are leaning more toward wait-and-see, rather than following their counterparts in Europe, where more immediate action is necessary. But, then again, I could be wrong—after all, I just compared cloud computing to Congressman Weiner's now-famous appendage.

Fourth, probably the two most interesting topics that arose this week were the dying lifecycle of an algorithm and why the role of the chief risk officer is changing.

Finally, meeting the people at random spots, such as at the bar, or at an art gallery—even the horrifyingly obnoxious ones—is always my favorite part of the event. While tech nerds often get a bad rap, get a couple pints in them and even quants start to sound interesting.

Until next year, as my British friends say, cheers!

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