The man behind Sibos

Patrik Neutjens has the Herculean task of making sure that every year SIBOS is the best financial conference in the world. Here he talks to about what it entails.

The Sibos annual conference is a massive logistical exercise. What does it mean logistically for SWIFT?

It is a huge exercise, especially if you think that at any one point in time we are working on three Sibos conferences in the years ahead. So we are now working on Copenhagen, Sydney and Boston at this stage. There is a lot of planning involved. There are one or two people in SWIFT who concentrate almost purely on planning around Sibos. They liaise and coordinate with all the partners and suppliers we deal with. It is a full-time job for them. As Sibos draws closer, it is a huge team effort that kicks in to make sure everything is in place. The SWIFT business team also puts in a lot of effort getting the right speakers and getting the right topics for the conference.

How many people are you expecting this year? Around 5,000 like last year in Atlanta?

We are actually expecting more this year. It is very popular. Sibos is a key event for us and for the industry. Our record year for numbers was Geneva in 2002. I am pretty sure that we will beat that this year. The demand for attendance and participation is unsurpassed.

Does SWIFT make any money from the conference?

We don't make money on the conference. It is not a sponsored event. We make sure that the fees we ask for the participants and exhibitors create a break-even situation. In principal we make sure there is no money left over. It pays for itself but has no margin.

What has been the biggest challenge in organizing the event this year?

Every year there are challenges and every year they are different. This year the biggest challenge for a lot of people is that it is taking place so early after the summer holidays. It is catching a lot of people by surprise. So we've had to do a lot of planning while people are still on holiday. Things we used to have six or eight weeks to plan for we now have to do in four or five days.

How do you make sure you give a global feel to the conference including Asian delegates, topics and themes?

The themes and issues that are discussed on the exhibition floor, in the conference or in any of the fringe meetings, are generally global topics that resonate equally in the US, Europe and Asia. Attendance tends to vary depending on the continent where the event is held. But we try to ensure that we have a number of private or special interest sessions that cater for local markets. We keep it global by making sure the representation of the speakers on the panels is global. And the thing that makes Sibos truly global is that the attendance is global; people come from around the world because they know the rest of the world is there.

What preparations are under way for next year's conference, which will take place in Sydney?

At Sibos this week, I will be meeting with a number of delegations from the Australian financial community. So we are kicking it off while the present one is going on. The whole thing will take shape pretty fast. By the end of November we should have a theme. We will then look to ensure that Asia is well represented as we decide what issues will take centre stage in 2006.

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