Information Management Network's 11th annual ABS East conference kicks off this week, nearly one month earlier than usual, and is expected to be even bigger than last year with over 2,800 delegates and 128 sponsors were registered to participate as of last week. ABS players from around the country will be treated to four days worth of panel discussions and entertainment at the world-class Boca Raton Resort and Club in Boca Raton, Fla.
Event producer Jade Friedensohn, of IMN, said the decision to hold the conference in mid-September, as opposed to mid- or late-October, as in years past, was made so that the conference would not interfere with the Jewish High Holidays, which fall in October this year. The early date has caused some mild waves in the market, as issuers and managers rushed to get deals done in the dog days of August, however, it did nothing to dampen interest in the show, as Friedensohn said this year's registered attendance represents a 300 delegate and 10 sponsor increase over last year. Friedensohn added that next year the conference is planned for Sept. 26 through Sept. 29, 2006.
Among the most notable features of the ABS market's return to Boca Raton, is that there will be no band, as in years past. However, conference delegates need not fret, as IMN has cooked up something arguably more entertaining than a professional musical act. This year, at the close of Wednesday's conference panels, IMN will host its first ever Karaoke Kraziness Cocktail Party at the Piazza, at which any and all courageous conference attendees will be invited to belt out their favorite songs as their industry peers look on.
"We didn't want people to be left musically bereft," said Friedensohn of why IMN chose to host the karaoke night in the absence of a hired band. Friedensohn promised that in the off chance the legions of ABS market players are a little shy about strutting their vocal capabilities, the IMN staff will be on hand to get the party started. "If there's a little hesitation, we'll lead the way," Friedensohn said.
Also high on the entertainment list for the conference will be the tennis and golf tournaments, with men's and women's divisions, at which the grand prizes will be $100 American Express gift cards to the winners, and $50 gift cards to the runners-up. There will also be a mariachi band at the welcoming reception on Tuesday night.
One of the most eagerly anticipated sessions of the conference is undoubtedly the Star Wars-themed opening panel on Wednesday morning, the main day of the conference. The panel, entitled "ABS Wars," asks the grand question of whether the ABS market will crumble to the power of "the Dark Side" or whether "the Force" of the market will remain strong. The panel, hosted by Moody's Investors Service Team Managing Director and self-proclaimed Jedi Master Gus Harris, will feature a cadre of ABS luminaries and will discuss the entire gamut of topics related to the ABS market, with each topic themed to a different episode of the Star Wars saga.
Among the panelists will be Mark Adelson, director and head, structured finance research for Nomura Securities, John Devaney, president and head trader at United Capital Markets, Mark Zucker, head of structured finance for MBIA. The panel will also be joined by Ted Yarbrough, managing director and co-head of asset backed finance with Citigroup Global Markets, Diane Wold, senior vice president, securitization management with GMAC-RFC, Michael Eggert, senior vice president with J.P.Morgan, Sanjeev Handa, managing director with TIAA-CREF, and Ronald Mass, portfolio manager with Western Asset Management Company.
Accompanying the four days of extensive coverage of all asset classes and market sectors, attendees can expect to see a stronger focus on discussions of new structures and increased coverage of subprime ABS and residential mortgages, according to Friedensohn. There will also be a panel on Latin American securitization, as well as one on utility ratepayer backed bonds, featured
For players in the ABCP market, there will also be a one-day event on Tuesday devoted solely to that sector. Friedensohn said there are roughly 250 delegates already registered for that event.
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