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Viewpoint – Stronger together at Boca

Our industry can’t listen unless we know, respect and trust each other

23 March 2022

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I look back on last week’s Boca conference with exhaustion and pride. I know it’s been a successful week if my cheeks still hurt from smiling and my hand is chafed from greeting old friends and new. Check and check!

After three years away, Boca exceeded my expectations. Not that there weren’t hiccups. Supply chain issues left parts of the newly renovated resort under construction. The sunshine didn’t cooperate like usual, impeding some of our outdoor festivities. And the aftermath of COVID-19 and the Ukraine invasion caused some of the usual suspects to stay home. 

That said, nothing was going to dissuade our industry from getting back together in 2022. Last week, FIA welcomed nearly 1,100 delegates to Boca, matching our pre-pandemic numbers for conference attendees. We also saw record sponsorships, thanks to many traditional partners and some first timers who see our industry as strategically attractive. 

What really floored me about Boca was the genuine excitement of attendees to see each other and the quality of conversations that ensued. The energy and optimism rivaled any conference I've attended, as colleagues conversed until the wee hours of the morning on everything from commodities to crypto to CCP risk. These substantive debates were intermingled with discussions of kids, summer plans and stories of Bocas past. There were even sightings of exchange and crypto executives sharing beers at the bar. It felt like a big family reunion. 

Our industry desperately needed Boca -- and we need more events like it. Before last week, some were expressing concern that the days of "in-person" conferences may be behind us. This year’s Boca obliterated that view. Or to quote Mark Twain, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”  

We are better as an industry when we talk with each other. Not at each other but with each other.

We can’t listen unless we know, respect and trust each other at a foundational level. You can learn a lot about someone over a drink, breaking bread, playing golf, or sharing a laugh. 

These moments build a bond that allows progress to be made and deals to get done. That is what Boca represents.

This reservoir of trust that our industry built up at Boca will be needed in the months ahead. New technologies and innovations will challenge our assumptions about our markets to the core. Boca was filled with discussions around clouds, disintermediation and defi. 

As I said in my opening remarks at Boca, we shouldn’t fear these ideas. Rather, we should openly discuss and productively probe them as a community through the lens of customer protection, market integrity and systemic risk. Because the only way forward is through thoughtful and considered debate, leading to responsible innovation that succeeds or fails on its merits. 

We all recognize that innovation is key to our industry’s growth and survival. It's in our DNA, but must be done responsibly and fairly. And that can't be accomplished without trust and open dialogue.

Boca proved, once again, that our industry is stronger together. I feel privileged to help organize forums like Boca, where these important conversations can happen. All of FIA's staff are committed to helping the global derivatives industry build a sense of community through shared values, and we're excited to build on the energy of Boca going forward – in Washington at our Law and Compliance conference, in London at IDX, in Chicago at Expo, and at other events large and small across the rest of the year.

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