Many fans of SIFMA were shocked to learn the financial industry’s largest trade event had no pulse or other signs of life when they arrived at the Hilton in midtown New York earlier this week. Once an event not to be missed, SIFMA this year was a reflection of the dramatic changes in the financial services industry. Stalwarts like Thomson Reuters and Sungard chose not to have a booth, instead hosting evening events.
The word on the show floor was that there were 40% fewer vendors this year, and about the same level of reduction in attendees. Sure, there were still the crazy guys in fishing hats trying to collect one of each giveaway and plenty of people trying to come up with creative ways to slip you a resume, but overall, show volume was light. The good news is that the ratio of quality conversations (for Solace) was much higher than last year. This is almost certainly because Solace is much better known than last year. We spent less time answering the “Who is Solace?” question and more time talking about issues with the prospects.
The buzz was still with all things low-latency. I was talking to Larry Tabb, and his opinion is: “The thing about low latency is, you either spend to keep up, or you are out of the market. That’s why low latency has remained hot and is the one area still growing”. That’s certainly true. We also find that the cost reduction value proposition resonates well. Many companies are revisiting their software cost sinkholes and looking for more productive options that bring down their burn rate.
I don’t think SIFMA will ever again be what it was earlier in this decade, though. Trade shows have outlived their usefulness in my opinion. People used to go to these events to learn about the industry, but now, you can learn much more in a couple hours in Google. The next most useful aspect is networking with peers, which has evolved to bumping into people you know and finding out where they work now, not useful scratch my back kind of discussions. So what are trade shows now? Relics of an earlier time.
This has not been a great week for cultural icons who are remembered fondly but whose better days were well in the past.