ACI – The Financial Markets Association held its latest Senior Dealers’ ACI – The Financial Markets Association held its latest Senior Dealers’ Seminar in Davos, Switzerland, which focused on key developments in the treasury environment, as well as on a number of topics surrounding the future of the organisation itself.
The theme of the seminar was “Key People Meet Key People”. The gathering of 44 delegates from 15 countries – the majority of whom were section heads and above – heard presentations by industry stalwarts and leaders over the four-day seminar. Speakers included:
•Tom Buschmann, treasury centre development manager, Shell International
• J oseph De Feo, president and CEO, CLS Bank International
• Ed Hulina, executive director, UBS Warburg
• Brian Maccaba, CEO and founder, Cognotec
• Dr Richard Olsen, CEO, Olsen
• Michael Renner, regional head of rates Europe, WestLB
• Roberto Schiavi, head of front office division, European Central Bank
• Robert Sleeper, head of banking department, Bank for International Settlements
• Kevin Steinberg, director, international strategy, World Economic Forum
• Michael Sweeney, executive director, UBS AG
• James Trott, strategic advisor, Reuters
• Mark Warms, chief marketing officer, FXall
The sessions included a lively exchange of ideas on how the industry will evolve. It started off with a quick look at how the treasury industry has developed from times when dealers had to stamp tickets to the current environment in which automation and information technology have made foreign exchange markets much more competitive and volatile.
Dr Olsen gave a somewhat controversial presentation on his thoughts about developments likely to affect the future of the industry, specifically that people will be totally removed from the dealing process.
Delegates had a chance to express their own views on how they think the financial industry will evolve, many of whom expected consolidation, concentration and centralisation of the banking industry to increase.
Delegates also noted a clear shift from the use of unsecured products to the use of secured products and suggested that outsourcing will become even more commonplace than it currently is, with financial institutions focusing increasingly on their core competencies.
Other concepts on the table included a prediction that a two-tier market structure will emerge within the banking community; that the role and skill set of a trader will change but that the importance of personal relationships would remain central. Delegates also felt that niche players would always exist and that there will be an increase in the number of currency baskets.
In addition to the scheduled programme, organisers received what Manfred Wiebogen, ACI’s sub-regional executive for Austria, Germany and Switzerland, and chairman of the organising committee, terms “a pleasant surprise” from the delegates, who demonstrated their commitment to, and interest in, ACI by looking at how the organisation can create a development plan for individuals, institutions and ACI as a whole.
He explains that, besides aspiring to raise awareness of all that the organisation does, delegates saw the need to set new standards for ACI. In order to achieve this, they agreed that the association should alter its mission statement to address a number of issues facing dealers in today’s markets.
ACI’s mission statement currently reads: “To be regarded within the business community, financial services industry and by the authorities and media as the leading association representing the interests of the financial markets and to actively promote the educational and professional interests of the financial markets and industry.”
Delegates suggested that a new mission statement should be drafted to cover and better address issues such as:
• being more influential
• improving and establishing cooperation with other organisations
• deepening and broadening its global presence
Delegates also suggested that in addition to these issues, the new statement should promote ACI in advancing its membership scope in the context of today’s constantly changing economic, political, social, highly automated and globalised environment.
A review of the organisational structure of ACI and its efficiency was also discussed. Delegates stressed that if ACI is perceived by the wider market as inefficient, it would have to change to keep pace with the current environment. Delegates called on ACI to review its structure so as to ensure that it develops better communication, transparency, international representation, external recognition and possibly become more professional, pragmatic, accountable and responsible.
An interesting aside to the seminar was the different structure under which it was held, with delegates breaking out into smaller groups on occasions and reporting back to the wider gathering. Attendees also spent time working individually as well as in open space discussions. Wiebogen suggests that this framework encouraged the formation of some very interesting and in some cases, controversial, views on the future of the financial industry and ACI.
Notwithstanding the focus on key treasury developments, Wiebogen says that all of the questions raised at the seminar had implications and relevance for ACI. Aside from a look at the mission statement, delegates also recommended establishing a future academy and a young talent policy. The latter was seen by delegates as vital to meeting the challenges of the future and guaranteeing the continuation of the high standards of the industry in serving customers.
A future academy would be a permanent reflection group that could keep ACI up to date on developments in the industry, increase ACI’s influence and establish a centre of competence, delegates determined. Members of the future academy should be made up from a fair representation of the market in product and geographical terms, and should involve partners from external organisations such as regulators, buy side customers and politicians. The future academy should, delegates argued, act as a “think tank” that is constantly open for suggestions and ideas, and should meet at least once a year.
However, reflecting the diversity of ideas and opinions floated, some delegates felt a future academy could run the risk of becoming too political, and that organisations involved might query the benefit of sharing ideas with their competitors. They acknowledged that there was a risk that the whole process could be derailed by a conflict of interest, but did express belief that the benefits outweighed the disadvantages.
Wiebogen says the seminar was, “An extremely interesting event and a very good experience which raised many thoughtful topics of discussion amongst senior market practitioners including central banks.”
Delegates were polled for their opinion on several aspects of the seminar – from organisation to content – and were unstinting in their praise for most aspects of the gathering. Certainly, ACI itself has found many interesting topics of discussion going forward.
Wiebogen stresses that the benefits of the Senior Dealer’s Seminar series are enormous, especially as ACI has the resources and talent within its membership to make them educational, interesting and controversial events, as well as seriously thought provoking.