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ABS East--The Bear Crawl

I just attended the ABS East conference, in Miami Beach.  This is an annual conference for the securitization market.  All of the banks and issuers attend, as well as firms like mine.  Even though we're a small company, we send a lot of people to this conference, because every meeting we have while there is one that we would otherwise have to fly out to, separately, with all the costs and time it takes to travel across the country.  It's a great opportunity for everyone in our industry, large and small, to get in a lot of meetings, to save some money, and to also to come together and talk about the big issues we are facing.

In Gretchen Morgenson's Sunday New York Times "Fair Game" column, she expresses outrage that Fannie and Freddie sent dozens of people to the MBA conference in Chicago last week.  I'm not shocked, I'm glad!  Those eighty people in one place, available to meet with all of the participants in the industry, brought tremendous efficiency to our market, even if it was just for a couple of days.  That time, and access to those people, is invaluable.  Combined, Freddie and Fannie sent 87 people, and they have 12,570 employees between them.  We sent eight people, and we have a few hundred employees.  I think Fannie and Freddie compare rather favorably, if the ratio tells us anything.

Conferences are highly productive, across the board. They must sound like fun, to people who don't attend them.  But I can tell you, they are hard work.  The ABS conference is a tough one.  We have meetings from first thing in the morning until evening, and then there are dinners to go to.  Everyone wants to meet, late into the night.  I'm always exhausted well before the first client dinner, and facing the next day's back to back meetings is challenging.  Still, we had two dozen meetings.  If we had sent our eight people to see our clients, across the country, we would have spent several times the total cost of this conference on travel.  And it would have taken a couple of months to get that many meetings scheduled, with the key people, who were easily available to us at the ABS East conference.

Diana Mead, our President, had a great idea this year.  We wanted to stay energized, despite the late nights and intense days.  In the tradition of our favorite boot camp, the Ashram (we just got back a couple of weeks ago), she booked us into the hotel's early morning workout at 6:30 on the first day, and we did it again the next day.  We both got there in time for a thirty minute warm-up on the elliptical machine, at 6, before the trainer, Ethan, took charge of the class.  This guy took the "boot camp" concept to a special, new level.  Monday's session was hard, even though we caught him off guard with our boot camp stories.  He improvised, and it was painful.  On Tuesday, though, he had given it some thought, and he came at us like a drill sergeant.  The photo below is of us doing the "bear crawl."  I thought it was an appropriate one to share, since the one thing we came away from the conference with was that the entire securitization market is still doing its own version of the bear crawl.