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Rating:Seen and Heard at the ICI GMM Not Rated 3.2 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Seen and Heard at the ICI GMM

Reported by InvestmentWires Staff, 

The ICI General Membership Meeting moved! That was the first thing more than 1,200 attendees assuredly noticed when they exited their cabs at the Wardman Park Marriott, situated within a stone's throw from the National Park in Washington, D.C. (Some attendees snuck out between sessions to pay the pandas a visit). The conference venue for the past several decades had been the Hilton Towers.

Most attendees received the change of environment well, though some found that navigating the new venue wasn't a breeze. Indeed, at least one mutual fund executive was seen nervously eying special maps the hotel distributed to help guests find their rooms.

Adding to the disorientation, to get to their rooms, attendees had to go down, not up, as the lobby was located on the eighth floor.

Some journalists who've covered the annual gathering for years were disappointed that they could no longer dart easily from the press room to the exhibit hall to the session rooms. In the past, these were all located on a single floor. This time around, however, they were scattered across two floors. And the media room was far from where the action was, tucked away beneath the escalator, by the luggage area.

NASD chairman and CEO Mary Schapiro almost made news Friday morning, but failed to come through at the last second. During the Q&A session following her speech Friday morning, Schapiro declined to reveal the name of the new SRO. She, however, told attendees what it will not be called.

"It will not be named SIFMA," Schapiro quipped.

"It won't be named Vanguard, which I thought is a perfect name for a new modern regulator," she added. "Jack Brennan refused to give it up."

The new name will be announced "very soon," Schapiro said.

ICI members gave consultant Burt Greenwald of BJ Greenwald Associates special recognition for his five-decade career in the industry during Thursday's marketing session with Steve Cone, Dave Swanson, principal and founder of SwanDog Strategic Marketing and Paul Varbinnen, president of Sard Verbinnen & Co.

Getting up on the podium to receive his award, Greenwald borrowed some lines from the late political satirist and columnist Art Buchwald: "We've given you a perfect world. Don't screw it up."

Cone later told fund executives that using people is a far more effective strategy than the typical beaches and sunsets many firms use now. That was why he wanted to use Lilly Tomlin and Don Rickles in Fidelity's campaign nearly a decade ago.

"Everyone warned me that Ned does not like personality-driven ads. I won that fight ... but I don't work at Fidelity now," quipped Cone.

With the many reporters and PR flacks wandering the halls, attendees may at times have thought that they had stumbled into a media conference and not a fund industry gathering.

Gordon Crovitz, publisher of The Wall Street Journal; James Berrien, president and publisher of the Forbes Magazine Group and John Byrne, executive editor at BusinessWeek discussed the future of media at a session Thursday.

Not surprisingly, Crovitz stayed mum when Fred Barnes, The Weekly Standard's executive editor and moderator of the panel, asked about Rupert Murdoch's attempt to buy Dow Jones, publisher of The Journal.

In a session led by Chip Roame Friday, there was considerable amusement with John Waggoner's (who attended the conference) selection of 12b-1 fees as a topic for his previous day's column.

The Wall Street Journal, Morningstar and BISYS were among those who hosted after parties Wednesday night. The WSJ threw their party at the Four Seasons while Morningstar and BISYS held a pool tournament at The Cue Bar.

Overheard at the Morningstar/BISYS party was commentary on the coming merger with Citigroup, all those the MFWire talked to were excited about the possibilities the merger brings.

The reception dinner at the Marriott Thursday night was a five-star gala event. White curtains hung throughout the room, tables were draped in white, and white centerpieces (complete with white ostrich feathers), had some guests remarking it looked more like a wedding reception than a conference reception.

By the time Michael Cavanaugh (lead singer of the Broadway play Movin' Out) took the stage, the guests were ready to let loose. One table in the back of the room poached the ostrich feathers from the surrounding tables and used them as props to dance along with the music.

Some guests remarked they wouldn't be surprised if the whole table ended up onstage at the end of the night. We hear that was an accurate assessment. 

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