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Viewpoint: Unlocking value virtually

3 August 2020

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The first half of 2020 has been incredibly active for our members. The industry has been dealing with the volatility caused by the pandemic while having to do so from home. Throw in the already heavy regulatory agenda, and the result is an extremely busy time. And when our members are busy, the FIA gets to work.

Our staff has worked tirelessly to seek quick answers and market relief from regulators to keep our markets open and operating smoothly. In addition, the on-going regulatory agenda—whether its Brexit, U.S. position limits, MIFID II or Reg Electronic Trading—continues to push forward. This has kept FIA incredibly energized and engaged as reflected in the FIA 2020 Mid-Year Advocacy Update. We are proud to be your advocates to help with the burdens of this hectic time.

And the impact of the pandemic on our industry continues. Last week FIA announced that its 2020 Expo and Asia Conferences would be 100% virtual in reaction to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. While disappointing, I am excited by the power of the virtual format and the opportunities that are unlocked for FIA members.

A lightbulb went on for me after conducting a virtual webinar on the topic of negative crude oil prices in May. This topic, while a brief and rare phenomenon in the markets, received front page attention in the media and caught the interest of many FIA members.

In years past, we would have put this topic on the program of our next in-person conference. But COVID-19 compelled us to think more creatively. We quickly pulled together a virtual program of experts from around the globe with the aim of educating our members and helping prepare for the next time this happens in the markets.

Guess what? Over 800 people signed up to watch the webinar from over 25 countries. To put this in perspective, the most highly attended keynote speech at our flagship Boca Conference normally has 400 attendees due to size limitations of the room. We discovered that our virtual platform allowed us to connect with more members in more locations in a timelier way. Virtual programming had the potential of unlocking access to exponentially more members of our community.

Sure, the virtual way of life has its limitations. We miss the social connections and trust that develops from sitting across the table from someone or sharing a drink or dinner. The depth and strength of that connection cannot be replicated virtually.

But I have noticed an intimacy that comes with virtual meetings that makes them powerful and effective. FIA’s board recently held its Washington D.C. Virtual “Fly-In” over Zoom to meet with several of the important policymakers who oversee our industry. I found these meetings incredibly impactful—not just for their efficiency (no travel, no logistics, no room limitations) but for the incredibly personal nature of the meetings. Virtual meetings give you a glimpse of the person behind the role, as officials share their home offices, family photos in the background and even technological shortcomings. These are humanizing moments that bring us together and remind us we are in this together.

Ironically, influential policymakers and VIPs seem more willing to take virtual meetings or conduct virtual presentations than ever before. Take our highly attended EU Cross-Border Webinar from a few weeks back that featured Andrea Beltramello, member of cabinet at the European Commission, who broke the news that the EU would be revealing its intentions on equivalence decisions soon. Or the recent members-only US Elections Webinar where highly regarded political analyst Charlie Cook made a compelling case by the numbers of why Donald Trump is likely to be a one-term president.

Don’t get me wrong! I look forward to the day when we can get together in-person to debate the issues and share our experiences as a community. But I am certain the virtual world is here to stay, giving FIA members more access to more information and important decision-makers than ever before.

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