There were two big events at Bloomberg’s City office on Wednesday. After the warm up event in the morning, the speakers from the IMS Regulatory Forum moved in to debate a range of regulatory topics from the impact of US regulation on UK fund managers, the journey to the FCA and – surely the hottest topic of the lot – AIFMD. In a nod to the event’s theme: Regulation at the Crosswords, attendees had supplied some alternative meanings for that last abbreviation… It’s fair to say that the winning three gave a clear indication of the mood of the room towards the directive. Interestingly, despite the fact that the AIFMD Level 2 text has been available for more than a month, the audience questions were predominantly still focused on classification, as firms struggle to identify the exact elements of the directive that will apply to them. There is a definite appetite for clear and comprehensive thought leadership to help guide the industry through to compliance. It hardly needs to be restated that hedge funds are facing an unprecedented regulatory burden. This was a point addressed by the event’s keynote speaker, Sir Menzies Campbell, who discussed the ‘Something has to be done’ principle that so often governs policymaking. Where there is systemic failure, be it of a foreign government or even the rules controlling (or not) MPs’ expenses, there is a pressure to rush in regulatory safeguards. The more complex the industry, the more complex the safeguards, and therefore the greater the likelihood of unintended consequences: a truism that has been borne out repeatedly in financial services. He left the audience with a more positive note, however, harking back to the Olympic successes of last year. He drew a parallel with the challenge faced by the Team GB cyclists when, after their triumph at Beijing, officials tweaked the rules to try to avoid the same situation in London. In spite of this, Team GB secured twice as many medals as any other nation, and more than 20% of all the cycling medals. The possibilities apply to the alternative investment industry too: where rules apply to everyone, talent will out. Unlike the earlier speech from the PM, the response to IMS’s event has been overwhelmingly positive. Audience numbers were consistently high throughout the day, with drop outs impressively low. The challenges of the current climate have seen some events lose ground, but yesterday reinforced the effectiveness of well-constructed panel sessions with good speakers focused on industry-dominating topics. There will always be a role for such an event. From the keen note-taking, it was clear how much the audience took from the sessions. For IMS, the benefits in terms of profile-raising and cementing its position as the pragmatic voice of compliance consultancy are clear, and will continue to be felt over the longer term. After only 2 years, this has become a must-attend day: roll on the next one!
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