Attendees at the SIA Technology Management Conference & Exhibit wear badges that display practically every color of the rainbow. Yet, no matter what the hue of the nametag, one theme was echoed through many mouths: "Do more with less."
"We're in an industry that people -- regulatory and otherwise -- believe that the way to do things better is through technology," says W. Norman Thompson, chief information officer at Southwest Securities. "At the same time we're reducing our people, we're trying to do more with technology to make things better for the investing public."
Michael Boltz, vice president of Capital Markets Technology at Charles Schwab, agrees, saying that his firm is focused on costs. "We must pick and choose our portfolio projects carefully to make sure we're investing in the right things because money is scarce. We've got to get the bang for the buck," he says. "Meanwhile, you've got to maintain employee moral when there aren't big bonuses floating around."
This sentiment is echoed by vendors as well, who are dealing with disappearing technology budgets from financial institutions. "We're focusing on being more creative in exploiting niche markets that we might not pursue otherwise," explains Lorne Whitmore, Princeton Financial Systems' managing director of global sales.
Walking through the crowded hallways of the exhibit hall and reading the conference agenda exposes other industry trends this year. Exhibitors, attendees and analysts remarked on some hot topics, including budgeting for straight-through processing, Linux, electronic-trading efficiency, market-data consolidation and cleaning, instant-message and e-mail compliance and archiving and business-continuity planning.
Celent Communications' Mike Haney, a senior analyst, explains that financial firms and vendors are getting back to basics. "People now are concerned with more bread-and-butter type issues, such as regulations, risk management and cost-cutting," he says. "It's less on the sexier topics that we saw a few years ago when people were concerned with distribution channels and new ways of reaching retail customers. It's returning to, 'How do I survive and prosper in a market where financial institutions aren't spending as much.'"
Other topics that are failing to get the coverage they received last year include STP based on a T+1 deadline, Internet technologies and Nasdaq's SuperMontage. "Last year, there was a huge buzz about SuperMontage being an ECN-killer," Haney says. "Clearly that hasn't happened yet, and there is doubt as to whether it will happen."
Attendees say they will spend the next two days getting as much information on emerging technologies as possible, as well as maintaining partnerships and relationships between vendors and firms, and creating new ones.
In addition, attendees say they hope to determine the future based on the show. "I come every year to get a feel of what is going on as far as technology in the security industry," says Thomas Hutton, chief information officer of Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board in Alexandria, Va. "I always come away with a catchword that is going to be useful for the next year."
Catchwords aren't all that attendees are leaving with, though. Bags are already heavy with give-aways ranging from plastic footballs to teddy bears, from electric massagers to sports watches. MSRB's Hutton says that he's found his prize. "I've only been here for 20 minutes, but so far my favorite give-away is Wall Street & Technology."