Island loses hedge fund conference after 18 years

  • Fairmont Southampton: The hotel has lost a major hedge fund conference that was expected to attract 350 delegates

    Fairmont Southampton: The hotel has lost a major hedge fund conference that was expected to attract 350 delegates

Bermuda’s convention business has been dealt another blow as one of the Island’s longest-standing conferences has decided to pull up stakes and relocate to another location.

The announcement compounds the news that recent visitor arrivals fell by one percent for the second quarter of 2012 due to a large dip in convention tourists.

The Institutional Investor/Alpha Hedge Global Hedge Fund Summit, which at one time attracted 1,000 hedge fund industry attendees, had been a staple conference in Bermuda for the past 18 years.

According to the event organisers, the event that was originally planned to be held at the Fairmont Southampton Hotel in April 2013, is moving to Boston due to lack of sponsorship at the secondary level.

Sources say the Bermuda Government paid $200,000 last year as the main sponsor and signed on again this year but the organisers couldn’t drum up enough additional industry sponsors to keep the event here.

While in recent years the Alpha Summit attendee numbers have significantly declined, down to 350 this year, the conference booked “hundreds” of hotel rooms, conference space and reception halls.

The Southampton Hotel also confirmed the cancellation of the conference.

Bermuda’s situation is not unique, say conference industry experts. At a time when companies are cutting back expenses and trimming budgets to retain staff, conventions are suffering globally.

“This decision was made strictly from a business perspective,” said a spokesperson from Institutional Investor Forums, the conference organisers, in an interview with The Royal Gazette. “This is not a reflection on Bermuda or our relationships with our contacts there. Our doors are open and our relationships are intact. We do hope our many good relationships follow us to Boston.”

Back in April of this year, organisers were out promoting the 2013 event saying the that the conference attracted top business leaders and allowed “investors to dive deeply into today’s most critical portfolio issues”.

The conference promised 100 high-profile speakers, more than 30 strategy sessions and 16 hours of networking activities like luncheons and cocktail receptions.

Popularity of the conference, though, had been waning in recent years with several key sponsors dropping from the roster, including Business Bermuda. The group’s last year of involvement was 2009.

Citing the expensive costs associated with sponsorship, Business Bermuda also felt they weren’t getting the most bang for their buck in terms of seniority of attendees — those with the ability to actually move their business to Bermuda.

“We used to be the main sponsor of this event for many years,” said Cheryl Packwood, CEO of Business Bermuda. “However, over the years, a determination was made that the conference did not bring value to the membership in terms of delegates attracted. It used to be decision makers including the hedge funds and lawyers and financial advisers to funds. Now, it’s all technology providers and administrators talking to each other.”

However, not every sponsor agrees with that take on the conference.

KPMG and PwC, both repeat sponsors at the silver level were considering sponsorship in 2013.

“PwC Bermuda is a long-time sponsor of the Alpha Hedge Global Hedge Fund Summit in Bermuda,” said Scott Watson-Brown, asset management leader, PwC Bermuda. “We sponsored it for several reasons, including the fact that it was valuable way to showcase Bermuda as a global financial centre for the hedge fund sector. Although we observed a slight drop-off in attendance over the past two years, we attributed this to the global economic downturn over anything else and so we are quite surprised and disappointed at their decision not to return.”

Audit house Deloitte was also a sponsor last year though it is unknown whether they were intending to participate next year.

“While our overall numbers were down, the pool of investors we did attract were equally, if not better quality than in years past,” added the conference spokesperson. “It was a more robust group.”

The date in April for the Boston conference has not been set.

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Published Aug 27, 2012 at 8:32 am (Updated Aug 27, 2012 at 8:31 am)

Island loses hedge fund conference after 18 years

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