It's the first day of the SIFMA Operations Conference here in sunny, 90-degrees Orlando, FL, although as several of this morning's speakers noted, you wouldn't know it because of the sealed, artificial air-conditioned environment we're in. But don't pity us poor conference-goers -- many of the 700 attendees golfed all day yesterday and last night's outdoor cocktail reception on a patio of the Gaylord Palms Resort featured perfect, low-humidity weather, a steel drum band, a generous open bar, crab cakes and sushi. This morning, Ellyn McColgan, president of distribution and operations at Fidelity Investments and co-chair of SIFMA's Board of Directors gave an update on SIFMA's activities and the progress made in integrating the Securities Industry Association and the Bond Market Association, which was approved in 2006.First McColgan said she'd like the change the name "SIFMA" to something else. She asked the audience who liked the name "SIFMA," and no hands went up.
She noted that staffing and real estate consolidation have been merger challenges. "People are devoted to the familiar way of doing things," she said. The top leadership positions have all been assigned. There are plans to reduce the rest of the combined staff by 15%. This will have a one-time cost of $11 million, but should enable cost savings of $12 million per year after that.
SIFMA is consolidating its two Washington, D.C. offices into one new location; this change should take effect in December. The organization plans to do the same with its two New York offices, it's still looking at office space there.
McColgan spoke of SIFMA's four top priorities:
1. Ensure the public's trust in the securities industry and financial markets. The Private Client Committee is taking the lead on this and providing investor education.
2. Encourage retirement savings and investment. This is the looming challenge of an aging population with not enough savings. "Awareness is much higher than it's been in the last three to four years," McColgan said. "People are finally realizing baby boomers will actually retire. It's imperative to each firm to bring more workers into savings systems and provide constructive solutions to help people prepare for retirement." The recently-passed Pension Protection Act will help, but there's still work to do. She said IRA savings and distribution rules need to be simplified. SIFMA will encourage the press and Congress to pay attention to this overall issue.
3. Promote effective and efficient regulation - McColgan noted NYSE and NASD's merging of rules as an important step toward one enforcement body and set of rules. SIFMA has gotten onerous regulations rescinded at the state level in Utah and Connecticut, she said. "Imagine if every state were able to set its own operational rules on stock markets," she said.
4. Facilitate more open, competitive and efficient global capital markets. SIFMA has sought new opportunities to open markets through U.S. trade policy and free trade agreements. SIFMA also helped resolve issues around when and if markets should close to commemorate President Ford's death on January 2. "You might think contingency plans already exist for this, heads of state don't live forever, but they don't," she said. "We still have seven ex-presidents left who are going to die. Why do we close the markets when someone dies?" SIFMA is working with various parties to agree on a standard policy.