Fi-Tech Culture

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It’s an early Saturday afternoon before the first full week of January, which means escaping family conversations is sitting watching reruns until the your programs start up again in a week or so.

You might want to take this time to check out BTFDtv, a new online video network for traders by traders.

Don’t expect a highly polished production value like from CNBC or Fox Business and the online network is the first to admit it on its homepage: “BTFDtv has no producers, writers, editors or on air rules.”

It’s more like a Skype session than a television program, but its backers are betting viewers are more interested in the content than its delivery.

Oh, the initials? I am told that it stands for Buy the Friendly Dip. This is a family friendly blog after all.

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Since today is the US quasi-holiday Columbus Day and Thanksgiving Day for our northern neighbor, I do not feel really bad about sharing my thoughts about the Investment Company Institute‘s Capital Markets Conference held on October 10.

I have to admit that the conference had a pretty impressive line up. Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner Scott O’Malia started the conference by providing some interesting volume data for OTC swaps since some swap execution facilities (SEFs) went live on October 2.

Of the approximately 6,500 OTC swaps trade executed during this period, only 50 or so elected to do the electronically via request for quotes (RFQs) or using a best bid and offer (BBO) platforms, or that 99.23% of the trades were voice traded.

I have to admit, I was scribbling my notes while handling a minor IT issue at the time, so please take the figures with a truckload of salt. I’ve seen other coverage that claims that the figure is closer to 50%, which sounds a bit high since not a single SEF operator has submitted a list of contracts it would they would like to make “available to trade,” according to a trusted source.

Until that happens, all transactions fall into the “permitted trades” bucket that let’s investors decide how to execute their centrally cleared trades.

Commissioner O’Malia also discussed his concern that each SEF should provide pre-trade certainty for every transactions. If SEFs do not have it place soon, he would be calling the CFTC’s Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) into session in early November to seek a technology solution to the issue. Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m feeling that I’m a bit in a minority after speaking to industry contacts, but I enjoyed this year’s SIFMA Tech conference. I spent most of my time in the regulatory sessions on the Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT) and the proposed Regulation System Compliance & Integration (SCI), which provided great amount of details on both initiatives and has me thinking that the regulatory pendulum is nearing an apex pretty soon.

As for the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the overall conference and exhibit attendance felt smaller than in earlier years. I have not asked SIFMA for the official attendance numbers but I didn’t need to use my elbows once to navigate the show floor and finding seats at the Bridges Bar for briefings was far too easy.

The upside of the conference for this reporter was that the lower attendance meant that I had time for more in-depth conversations with the attendees, presenters and exhibitors to whom I spoke.

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Yep, the unofficial start of summer is almost here. Forget about Memorial Day or the first summer bank holiday being the start of summer – that is mere tripe for civilians. For financial technologists, vendor community and trade press, summer starts the Thursday after SIFMA Tech conference.

Before that is a 48-hour marathon of industry panels, schmoozing, vendor demonstrations, schmoozing, networking, schmoozing, post-event vendor gatherings and schmoozing.

And yes, schmoozing is a synonym for drinking.

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Okay, I’m somewhat loathed to write this post since I do not want to crawl over even more tourist in New York’s financial district, but hidden among the high-end retailers, gyms and other businesses that support Wall Street workers is a great museum, The Museum of American Finance.

It is easy to walk by the museum and not know that it is there. The building used to be The Bank of New York’s headquarters during the Roaring Twenties and fits in well with the rest of the neighborhood. The museum is a block east of the George Washington statue in front of Federal Hall and right next to the subway entrance for the 2 line. Or more precisely, it’s located at 48 Wall Street.

After walking in through the front doors and up the stairs to the exhibits space, life-size statues of Aaron Burr and American patron saint of finance Alexander Hamilton in mid-duel meet visitors.

The museum makes great use of its 10,000 to 12,000 square-foot exhibit space, which includes its permanent exhibits on birth and growth of the American markets from the colonial era to present day. The two rotating exhibits on display trace the origin and growth of today’s financial crisis and the history of Baring Bank’s investment in the US from the 18th to early 20th Century.

Many people might find finance a dry topic, but the museum does a great job of presenting content in a fun an interactive way using the latest technology.

I probably would wait until children reach their double-digits before bringing them to the museum. However, Ms. Gallo’s fourth-grade class from P.S. 66 in Brooklyn, who toured the museum at the same time, seemed to enjoy the exhibits before disappearing to a presentation by “Inspector Collector” in museum’s instructional space.

In a very generous gesture, private equity firm Southport Lane is sponsoring a free Saturday admission for all visitors until the end of the year. Not only can families enjoy the museum for free, but every students who visits on Saturdays also will go home with a souvenir stock certificate.

From a personal perspective, there were two artifacts that caught my eye. The first was a replica of one of the bonds that financed the Louisiana Purchase from France. The curious part of about the bond is that English merchant banker Francis Baring underwrote the entire deal during the Napoleonic Wars and beat Michael Corleone to the “It’s strictly business” defense by two centuries.

The other was a ledger containing the federal budget when Alexander Hamilton served as US Secretary of the Treasury under Washington. The ledger was about 80 pages and the entire budget for the US Department of War was a whopping $7,135.19.

I am sure you will walk away with your own favorites like the solid gold and gem-encrusted Monopoly set on loan from the Smithsonian Institute.

Go. You will have a good time while learning about the financial markets.

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