Thursday, June 24, 2010

SIFMA and the World Cup

I just returned from the Securities Industry and Futures Market Association's Financial Services Technology conference and exhibition in New York City. There were a record number of registrants, a SIFMA rep told me 9,000 people signed up, which was a very good sign (last year was dire - maybe 5,000 I'd guess). The stands were busy, if still more sparse than before the financial crisis, and the parties were packed with Europeans as well as Americans. That is the good news.
The bad news is that on Wednesday, when the U.S. was playing in the World Cup against Algeria and England was playing Slovenia, there were only two or three screens airing the matches. At the Bloomberg stand, one of the sales guys had tracked down a free streaming TV service and had the U.S. match in a tiny corner of the screen. Downstairs in a 'pub' set for a vendor there was an actual TV screen and probably 50 people crammed in around it. I mentioned it to some other vendors who all said that they didn't want to pay the Hilton for internet service at the conference, it was too expensive. And too slow. Therefore nearly everyone had canned demos at their stands.
Now I realize that the SIFMA technology exhibition is mainly attended by swotty geeks (I count myself as one, so please do not take offense). And the U.S. is only just beginning to take notice of football, i.e. soccer. So the fact that not many people were interested in the World Cup is fair enough.
But the fact that the foremost technology exhibition in the world, with big name vendors from IBM to Bank of America, cannot provide even the most basic technology to its exhibitors is not understandable. It is downright ridiculous. (And, by the way, Verizon was exhibiting - hellooo...)Vendors pay a lot of money to exhibit at this conference, and if they want to display the World Cup at their stands or show their clients something live online they should be able to.
So, vendors - take a stand. Tell the Hilton and SIFMA that you are mad as Hell and are not going to take it anymore. Demand connectivity for free (or at least cheap). If SIFMA wants the industry to crawl back to normalcy, it really ought to provide it with the necessary tools.

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