(Boca Raton, Fla.) Last year, comedian Dennis Miller turned a few people off with his racy humor. This year, it was a new organization's name -- SIFMA -- that became the butt of a few too many jokes and derogatory comments at the securities industry's annual confab. But SIFMA, which stands for Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, it is, and SIFMA it will remain.
Many securities regulators and industry members discussed the need to streamline regulation -- a wish that came true just two weeks or so after the conference adjourned.
Still, much work remains to be done, says James P. Gorman, SIFMA co-chair and head of Morgan Stanley's global wealth management group. "We're often defined by those at the bottom, and our reputation can be defined by the worst performers," he says. That means SIFMA members must be decisive: "If people don't measure up, they should be pushed out of the industry," says Gorman, who's been doing just that at Morgan Stanley since joining the broker-dealer in early 2006.
NASD Chairperson Mary Schapiro says her organization is poised to clamp down, so that brokers can't take advantage of regulatory discrepancies or "arbitrage" when choosing which financial products to offer consumers. "Regulatory-arbitrage incentives do not meet anyone's interests," she concludes.
NYSE Group CEO John Thain emphasizes the need to maintain the competitiveness of U.S. financial markets, which he says has been threatened by state regulation, frivolous lawsuits and other factors. But he believes this cause got a bit of a boost in early November, when former New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was elected governor. "In New York, we have cured at least part of that," he jokes.
In terms of legislative changes that could support the financial-services industry in 2007, political commentator Charlie Cook says SIFMA's concerns are "way, way down the food chain." Topics such as the war in Iraq are likely to dominate the deeply divided political landscape and agenda, he explains.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto believes that instability in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other areas represents "an extraordinarily dangerous challenge." And, although she recognizes that a democratic Pakistan would also be "a petri dish of terrorism," she calls on the United States to reach out to the world's 1 billion Muslims by supporting democracy in her native country, as well as in neighboring nations. "We need [such a] uniform message... it is equally important in the war on terrorism."
What is SIFMA?
The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association(SIFMA) is the result of the November 2006 merger between the Securities Industry Association (SIA) and the Bond Market Association (TBMA)
Who does it represent? More than 650 member financial-service firms in the U.S. and worldwide.
What is its main objective? The group aims to enhance the public's trust and confidence in global financial markets by serving as the financial-services industry's voice for regulatory and legislative priorities. In 2007, it will focus on: industry reputation, retirement savings, efficient and effective regulation, global capital markets, business/market resiliency, a lower cost of capital for all issuers, and the education of investors and investment firms.
Who are its leaders? The full-time co-CEOs are Marc Lackritz and Micah Green, the volunteer co-chairs are Edward C. Forst , chief administrative officer of Goldman Sachs, and James P. Gorman, president and chief operating officer of global wealth management for Morgan Stanley.
When does it meet? The group's annual conference and board of directors' meeting is set for the Wednesday through Friday before Veterans Day in November at the
Boca Raton Resort & Club; other educational events are held throughout the year.
To learn more: See www.sifma.org
SIFMA '06 VIPs
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan: Benazir Bhutto
Political Commentator/Editor: Charlie Cook
SEC Chairman: Christopher Cox
NASD Chairperson and CEO: Mary Schapiro
Comedian/Commentator: Ben Stein
NYSE Group CEO: John Thain
Country Singer/Grammy Winner: Trisha Yearwood
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