SFIG Vegas 2017, which took place last week at Aria Resort & Casino, was the largest capital markets conference in the world, according to the Structured Finance Industry Group. With over 6,300 registered attendees, and I suspect thousands more who came to Vegas to attend meetings without registering for the conference, it’s hard to imagine that anyone in our industry wasn’t in Vegas last week. And while the weather in Vegas during the conference was unseasonably chilly, there was the warm glow of an industry feeling pretty good about its prospects inside the conference halls. The conference agenda was jam packed and the mood upbeat.

There was a lot to catchup on since our last industry-wide get together last September at the 22nd Annual ABS East conference. Donald Trump was elected President, an outcome that was uncertain at best five months ago. The Fed raised interest rates. Risk retention arrived (effective December 24, 2016) with seemingly little fanfare (although for those of us on the legal side, we appreciate all the legal work it created). The DOW set new records throughout January and February in its second-fastest rise in U.S. history. And Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt. Four out of five of these topics were the focus of much discussion at the conference. I won’t say which one was left out.

Based on panels and side conversations:

The industry as a whole seems to have cleared the risk retention hurdle with limited disruption.

  • Although some industry players think there is a possibility of repeal of large portions of Dodd-Frank under the new administration, most seemed to think that a full repeal is improbable.
  • Spreads are expected to continue tightening while Treasury and LIBOR rates continue to creep upwards. All this seems consistent with steady growth ahead in the near term. Beyond that, if only I knew.
  • While some commentators believe we are nearing the end of this cycle, no one seems to be sounding alarm bells.

The conference sessions overall were lively and well attended. One of my favorites was keynote speaker Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe and a former member of Congress, offering his perspective on the current political climate. He was careful not to offer any predictions. But in the end he assured us that “Americans can be trusted to do the right thing… once they have exhausted all [other] possibilities.”

Another highlight of the conference was “Blockchain University,” a series of sessions intended to give participants an understanding of the technology behind blockchain and how it can be utilized in capital markets. For those of you who are not particularly sure what blockchain is all about (no need to be embarrassed, let’s be honest), I am probably not the right person to explain it, but I get the impression that blockchain today may be similar to what the internet was 25 years ago – we have a sense that it’s important, but few can yet explain what it is.

And thus another conference drew to an end. After four days of meetings and learning, it’s good to get back to work to find inboxes full of email and offices abuzz with activity. Certainly feels like 2017 is off to a good start. See you all at the next one!