And the winner isà

There was heavy competition this year to have the best box at the Credit Suisse First Boston Hong Kong Sevens.

Having visited 15 boxes, and single-handedly led Heineken to adjust its second quarter sales projections, I am now ready to declare the winner of FinanceAsia’s award for the best box at the Sevens.

Let me say first that competition was tough. Historically, CLSA have always dominated the ‘Best Box’ category at the Sevens. And once again the firm attempted to takeover the stadium with its colours. Gary Coull’s party machine distributed 30,000 blue and yellow afro wigs, and thus captured the South Stand.

These could be seen bobbing about as the crowd shouted what became the theme of this year’s event, “Who let the dogs out?” (Or as it later became, “Who let the frogs in?”)

The CLSA box took a cowboy approach this year, and had a particularly riveting blonde cowgirl. She was able to answer many of my questions about bank research.

Just two boxes to the right, ABN Amro went into party overdrive with their Charlie's Angels theme. These girls proved to be fairly lethal weapons. Club ABN Amro was a very popular box indeed.

Deutsche Bank got its act together this year and chose the Gladiator theme. Swords and togas obviously abounded, as did vino veritas. “Are you not entertained?” Deutsche asked, and the fund managers said they were.

Over on the other side of the stadium, the world had gone very Arabic, excepting alcohol consumption. No less than three houses selected a Middle Eastern theme, among them JPMorgan, SG and UBS Warburg.

JPMorgan’s box thankfully retained the old Jardine Fleming sense of fun, with Duncan Ross, Chris Rampton and Rupert Fane in fine fettle, and a pantomime camel in situ. Guests were given the choice of a fez, or head-dress and long flowing white gown. Two soul/R&B singers were in residence, or as they put it, “In the house with JPMorgan”.

Over at SG, Melody Jeannin had sourced all their gear from Lebanon, including some amazing carpets. The only thing that wasn’t sourced from Lebanon were the belly dancers, who were from Brazil – but no one was complaining about that.

The words ‘magnifique’ and ‘formidable’ applied to the Indosuez WI Carr box, which went for a French can-can theme (and held a world class party on Saturday evening at CafT des Artistes). Lucy Spencer did a tremendous job persuading people to wear berets and inserted a garter onto the proffered legs of guests. Two can-can girls introduced guests to the delights of French culture.

Late on Saturday afternoon we ventured into the Goldman Sachs box – which did not have a theme. We suspect that investment banking chairman, Tim Freshwater – who happens to be the ex-boss of JF – will seek to change that next year and create a bit more fun. The Goldman box was pretty busy, however, and we observed with some interest that when the WI Carr can-can girls finished their duties at 6pm they made a beeline for Goldman’s box.

The theme of the Merrill Lynch box was clearly that of a cemetery, because no one was in it. In fact there was a big gap between the efforts put in by the US and European houses, with the former taking a far more boring approach.

CSFB, which had two boxes, obviously basked in the glory of sponsoring the event and having now organized its most successful pre-Sevens investor conference ever, was getting maximum value out of it.

But who wins? It is a very tough choice, but in the end the Sunday showing of ING Barings carries the day. ECM head Paul Kelly is the organizer and DJ for Funky Times, the 1970s retro-club, and he turned the ING box into a mini-discothFque.

This led to a bit of a showdown with the powers-that-be. ING’s smoke machine and boom box external speakers obliterated the boxes on either side, and the stadium officials got a bit uppity about noise levels.

But cool music, orange afro-wigs, bad shirts, large medallions, and samba whistles were enough to combat uppity officials.

So there you have it. It’s official, ING Barings let the dogs out. It wins this year’s tombstone for Best Box, which will appear in the April issue of FinanceAsia magazine.

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