Thursday, June 12, 2008

Attended the SIFMA Technology Management Conference

This week the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) held its annual Technology Management Conference at the NY Hilton on 6th Avenue. This used to be called the SIA show but the name was changed recently. It appears that the SIA show is dedicated to Snowboarders now.

This show is a great opportunity to see all of Wall Street's technology vendors in one place. It is also a great opportunity to network. Many of the vendors have invite only receptions after the show hours are over. The better your contacts the higher the probability that you will receive an invite to socialize while enjoying free food and drink.

My schedule did not permit me to attend last year but this year was going to be different. Since Wednesday is the only full day of the show I figured it would be the best day to attend. I put on a shirt and tie (too hot to wear the optional jacket) and took the 9:22 AM Middletown train to New York. A chain reaction caused the train to breakdown at the Holmdel - Middletown border. A truck pulling a backhoe hit the Laurel Ave bridge triggering a stop signal on the tracks which cause the electric train to stop in a deadspot. We ended up have to wait almost an hour for the diesel Bay Head train to come up behind us and push us into a live spot. No electricity = no air conditioning. At least the temperatures were not nearly has high as they were on Monday and Tuesday. I am becoming an expert on stalled trains since I have been on more than my fair share over the last couple of years.

The last time I attend the SIFMA show I was interested in Order Management System (OMS) and Execution Management System (EMS) vendors. This year I had no real agenda but I thought the show might be a good opportunity to get a feeling for the mood on Wall Street these days. I was also interested in seeing how the various vendors were reacting to the rapidly changing needs of their customers. Also, would the attendees be potential customers looking to fill current needs or would they be newly unemployed tech workers looking for their next opportunity.

As much as I look forward to attending the SIFMA show, walking through the doors is a little intimidating. Almost like walking into a party and not know a soul. All the vendors are looking to talk to attendees but I do not want to look like an idiot. Since most of the vendors have gifts that they are giving away the show is a little bit like an adult version of Halloween (there are even costumes at some of the booths). A lot of attendees are going from booth to booth asking for the free gift and leaving. I really want to talk to as many people as I can so I will not take a toy unless I have had a meaningful conversation one of the people working the booths.

A couple of times I found myself in the booth of a company that I had never heard of before that created a product that was out of my comfort zone. Years ago this would have been tough for me but I have found that there is usually something in my background that is similar and I can use that information to ask relevant (at least to me) questions. Some people are more patient with me than others. Some do not see the value in wasting time talking to a consultant. I wish my blog would entitle me to a press pass I might get a little better access.

I usually stay away from the big booths like HP, Sungard and IBM. The smaller specialized vendors seem to have a better pulse on the market place. They usually staff their booths with the people who have built the product. They will often take time to talk. I sometimes wonder if I will see these companies represented at next years show since you are never sure how well funded they. Some have expensive products that are being sold into a small niche.

After a while I decided that my personal theme would be GRID computing. On my second round of the exhibits I started to search out companies with a GRID computing product. One of the more interesting was from a company called GemStone Systems. I spent some time with a gentleman by the name of Santiago Martin-Romani who explained his company's product and answered all of my questions without once rolling his eyes. Since I had just completed a design of GRID implementation for another client Mr. Martin-Romani confirmed that I made the right choices.

My personal networking results were somewhat mixed. While I did not run into many old acquaintances I did meet some new people who turned out to be very interesting.

Every year I run into David Sawyer. In past years David has been manning the BT Radianz booth but this year he was helping out in the Savvis booth. David told me that David Montanez one of our former co-workers from Salomon Brothers was also attending. 15 minutes later David and I ran into each other. Mr. Sawyer had invited us both to the Savvis reception later in the evening so we both agreed to catch up then.

My general feeling is that both the attendees and vendors are cautiously optimistic. The turmoil in the financial markets often creates opportunity for new systems. Even though much of the current crisis was created on Wall Street is going to be up to Wall Street to correct. While some old line names such as Bear Stearns and possibly Lehman Brothers are going to disappear there are other firms waiting to step in an fill the gap with new ideas. There is definitely a demand for better risk analysis tools as well as improved systems for pricing derivatives. The downside is that many firms do not have the necessary cashflow to invest the required capital. Some firms are just fighting to stay in the battle.

As I was resting my feet waiting for the Savvis party to start I noticed Rob Stavis standing next to me. Mr. Stavis is a former Salomon Brothers employ who ran the Government Arbitrage group after John Meriwether left. I wanted to speak with Mr. Stavis but he was on the phone and I did not want to interrupt him. Especially since I only really know him from sharing an elevator at 7 WTC.

As Mr. Stavis ran out to catch his cab I noticed a woman going through a pile of brochures. I asked her if she was going to read them all tonight. She said no because she had already read them. She must have sensed my disbelief since she came over to prove to me that she had read them and had mastered the content. It was a brief but interesting conversation.

I also ran into an independent Financial Analyst while waiting for the Savvis party to start. This gentleman told me that his business was doing well but he thought that some of the larger firms were going to continue to have problems. When I made the comment that most of these companies have made lots of money over the past years he responded with the comment that they will probably give back way more than they earned. I am not sure if that is true but the current events seem to indicate that it could well be a correct statement.

I caught the 8:03 PM Bay Head train. I left New York feeling like I had a productive day. I even managed to squeeze in a quick field trip to visit Trackstar NYC. See my Yelp review for the results of that adventure.


brettok said...

I want to meet the chick in the black and white....

Anonymous said...

very good