VENICE - The European Securitization Forum's packed agenda for its third annual conference held here last week got high marks. Several attendees noted that the conference continues to grow and has become one of the more important European industry events.

However, the hard-to-get-to venue got mixed reviews from participants. Although the Lido location offered attendees the beauty of Venice, ariving from the airport took an hour and 15 minutes. For people who were looking to just pop in and out of the event, this presented some difficulty. A few industry players were also complaining about the all-industry dinner held at the end of the conference.

"Let's just say it got mixed reviews," said one attendee. Many sources said that the keynote speaker, former World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, did not deliver a spicy enough speech while others complained that the food was less than spectacular. "At the end of a long day we were just looking to sit down," said another attendee.

The conference provided a venue for the ESF to reveal its upcoming plans. Rick Watson, the recently appointed ESF head, highlighted some of the key initiatives the forum plans to pursue over the next year. Basel II featured high on the list. Watson said that the ESF is currently looking at implementation on a national regulatory level. The group is now working on the Financial Service Authority implementation paper number six on which comments are due next month.

Watson said the European Securitization Forum has also agreed to participate in the European Commission-led study on the integration of the European Union mortgage markets. "We are looking to [understand] what extent mortgage markets might be influenced by product availability," he said.

The ESF also plans to expand investor technical education and have more industry participants join in on discussions. The next gathering for regulators and issuers to discuss outstanding issues, said Watson, is going to be held this April in Madrid.

Another area that the ESF continues to work on is standardized market practices, specifically standardizing market data. "We are working with a variety of market participants and promoting the continued growth of this market," Watson said.

In terms of next year's conference, there is no word yet as to whether the ESF intends on keeping Lido as the venue - it has been the third location in as many years that the ASF has hosted the event.

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

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