The exhibition floor of this year’s Sibos conference, held last week in Toronto, exuded enthusiasm and confidence in the global banking and payments industries. In fact, entering the Sibos event was like entering a bubble: once past security, an attendee would be hard-pressed to reconcile the high spirits of this event with the current global economic slowdown. One would never suspect, for example, that Greece is near bankruptcy with Italy and Spain also struggling.
Once inside, attendees entered a world of champagne corks popping, air hockey and foosball tables, opera singers entertaining, and iPad and Vespa scooter giveaways. Many of the large vendor exhibit booths were nothing less than opulent, with some resembling first-class airport lounges complete with leather couches, espresso machines, and contemporary paintings hanging on the walls.
In the bubble of Sibos, it’s a very good year.
This year’s show topped 7,400 attendees from around the world (47percent from EMEA, 38 percent from the Americas, and 15 percent from Asia-Pacific, according to SWIFT, the organization that runs the conference). Veteran Sibos attendees noted lesser energy at this year’s show compared to past conferences – particularly last year’s Amsterdam event, which gathered a record 8,900 participants.
However, the seven thousand strong that did attend came ready: ready to discuss, ready to learn, and ready to make deals.
Sibos Toronto hosted 180 exhibitors, and offered 200 different sessions and presentations involving nearly 200 speakers. Those 200 sessions tended to fall along four key themes: regulation, technology advancements (particularly in the areas of mobility and cloud computing), the quickly changing profile of the financial services industry, and global perspectives.
Despite a perceived dip in energy by some, Sibos retained much of its uniqueness. For one, it’s clearly a European show, regardless of the continent on which it’s being held: attendees are in suits and ties, pantsuits, and skirts. The use of leading consumer technologies, by attendees and the media, was prevalent in the multitude of iPad sightings. For another, Sibos is a major investment for many of the exhibiting companies: one marketing director told me she spent nearly $250,000 for her display build-out, and hers was modest compared to many of the larger booths which, in her estimate, must have exceeded $1 million.
Perhaps most importantly, Sibos is still the show where deals get done. Unlike many U.S.-based banking and payments conferences and exhibitions, where vendors chase anyone looking like a banker, the seniority of attendees at Sibos (at an estimated $4,000 per attendee) ensure that deal-making authority permeates the event. Many portable conference rooms line the perimeter walls, and they’re continually in use. Rather than attendees leaving with a fistful of press releases touting new product releases, many attending Sibos likely left holding contracts.