The American Securitization Forum is expecting a record 3,600 attendees at its annual conference, ASF 2006, in Las Vegas this week.

The industry organization for several years has played a virtual game of tug-of-war for attendees against privately held conference company Information Management Network's winter conference, ABS West. And since the two have been in competition, IMN has always drawn the larger pool of attendees.

But this year, the ASF has more than tripled the number of attendees - from 1,193 at its ASF 2005 event in Scottsdale, Ariz., last year. Meanwhile, some 2,500 were registered at press time for IMN's event, to be held at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix from Feb. 7-10. Last year's ABS West drew some 2,600, according to IMN conference producer Jade Friedensohn [see ASR, 10/24/05].

"I think this conference will become, and has already become, a unifying event for the whole ABS industry," said Kenneth Fischbach, senior vice president at MBNA America Bank and co-chair of the ASF's communication and education committee. "Historically in the conference space, there has been a split between two somewhat mediocre conferences."

ASF conference organizers point to their "for the industry, by the industry" motto as a key reason why more attendees this year chose their conference, which runs from Jan. 29 through Feb. 1. ASF executives said the organization's work on such initiatives as Reg AB and securities offering reform helped to bring awareness to the ASF's cause.

"People that are members of the ASF realize that the [proceeds] of the conference ... will [go] to the ASF to help support their industry initiatives, instead of going to some wealthy conference coordinators," Fischbach said.

"It's finally a message that people have listened to," added Diane Citron, general counsel and chief compliance officer at Carrington Capital Management and co-chair of the ASF's communication and education committee. "I think the industry has realized that the ASF has taken a very front-and-center position."

Education

The asset-backed securities sector has drawn an increasing number of participants from a broader band of investors - with last year's total ABS issuance numbers breaking the $1 trillion mark for the first time. Conference organizers are saddled with the task of creating an agenda that appeals to both experienced and inexperienced professionals across various ABS subsectors.

One quarter of the ASF's attendee base, or about 930 professionals, qualify as investors, according to ASF executive director George Miller, who attributes the success of ASF 2006 to its member-designed format.

The conference's first day will feature the launch of the ASF Securitization Institute Program, a series of educational breakout sessions designed as building blocks to prepare for the rest of the conference. The ASF is planning to introduce the Institute in a more formal manner later this year, Miller said.

"We kind of approached this as, there will be something for everyone no matter what part of the market you work in," Miller said.

Along with the general sessions, there will be four breakout tracks that address: residential mortgage and home equity ABS; asset-backed commercial paper; the CDO market; and non-mortgage ABS.

Marking key trends in the U.S. securitization industry, the conference on Monday, Jan. 30, will kick off with a general session concerning globalization and convergence in the securitization market before moving on to a second general session regarding credit default swaps of ABS - a rapidly growing market. Other sessions during the four-day conference feature such topics as mortgage lending product trends and challenges for CDO collateral managers.

Location

While such programs help draw attendees, some say location plays no small part. A fair portion of industry professionals attend conferences solely for networking. The conference has integrated issuer presentations from some 30 issuers, and lead sponsors have the luxury of designated one-on-one meeting spaces. The ASF had initially planned to hold its annual conference in Orlando, Fla., before changing the venue to the newly built Wynn Las Vegas resort. The ASF received such positive member feedback that it's already slated its 2007 conference for Las Vegas's Venetian Hotel.

Well-known comedian and actor David Spade is scheduled as the headlining performer for the ASF 2006's industry dinner, sponsored by United Capital Markets.

(c) 2006 Asset Securitization Report and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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