Patrick Young is headed back to the Bürgenstock Conference of the Swiss Futures & Options Association for the first time in several years to host a rerun of the “Crossfire” panel he once popularized. He is bringing his well-known wit and blistering charm to this once legendary international forum of industry leaders.
Burgenstock has not aged so well in the years since Crossfire was a thing. It lost its beautiful venue atop a mountain overlooking Lake Lucerne and has bounced around Switzerland to alternative locations that lacked the unique qualities of the Bürgenstock site.
The new CEO of the SFOA, Daniel Day-Robinson, is trying to bring new life to the conference. He wants to go back to basics, where Bürgenstock started, focused on new products and new markets. With a nod to the past, and an eye on the future, Robinson brought the exiled Mr. Young back to help put a spark into the conference.
The question for some who know Mr. Young is whether he will add a spark, or burn down all of that around him. From his perch as publisher of Exchange Invest, a somewhat familiarly styled daily newsletter about exchanges, Mr. Young has insulted and/or torched some notable exchange leaders, including former NYSE Group CEO Duncan Niederauer. He has been on a scorched-earth campaign against Nasdaq’s futures efforts in London and notably piggish towards NLX CEO Charlotte Crosswell. Nasdaq must have thick skin, as it was announced yesterday, that it was sponsoring Exchange Invest.
If burning down new exchanges and markets, and ad hominem attacks on exchange leaders are part of Mr. Young’s Crossfire strategy this year, heaven help the SFOA.
My own experience with Patrick Young is complicated. I first came across him when he published two E-Zines, Erivatives.com and ErivatesReview.com. He was the author of a well received and timely book, The Capital Markets Revolution, published in 1999. He was writing about the electronic trading revolution that I was living through as head of an electronic trading brokerage operation beginning in 1997.
Ultimately, his two publications from those early days failed. Some people told me it was my newsletter that killed them, as people had read most of the stories in my daily newsletter by the time his alternating biweekly publications came out. I don’t know if that is true. I think the lack of an early economic model for the Internet was more likely the culprit.
This newsletter operation did not have a “burn rate” of a startup backed by venture capital when it began, as did Mr. Young’s. I had the cash flow of a growing brokerage business and the benign support of my brokerage firm. And of course, the FREE aspect of the newsletter made it hard to beat the price.
Mr. Young became a fan of this newsletter and we became friendly as we encountered each other at industry conferences. He even thanked me in his follow up book, The New Capital Markets Revolution. As a member of the SFOA board of directors, he also invited me to come to the Bürgenstock conference.
That invitation changed everything, one could say. Heading to Bürgenstock would not be an exercise in trying to find new electronic trading clients, but extending the reach of this newsletter and taking the next step in building it into something.
I did not go to Bürgenstock that year, but I instituted the “voluntary pay” format of this newsletter to generate income that could pay for my trip to Bürgenstock should I be invited again. I turned my viral marketing experiment that aimed to help my brokerage business and CTA equity raising enterprise into a for-profit business.
As you can see that business has grown every year. My brokerage business did not flourish in the long-term, but other factors were also at work there; the subject for another commentary. In 2011, I turned my attention full-time to growing this burgeoning media business, with the help of my talented and dedicated staff.
Somewhere since then, Mr. Young got back into the publishing business and launched Exchange Invest. To many, the style, target audience and format looked familiar, and redundant. Of course, his is not the only newsletter or blog to pop up in recent years in the exchange and trading space.
As a lover of competition, I appreciate Mr. Young’s efforts aimed at exchange investors in principle. I used to run his commentaries in this newsletter, as I had always done before.
However, as time wore on we noticed there was something strange about Exchange Invest. It never included anything published by John Lothian News no matter how relevant the subject. And there is where Mr. Young has rubbed me the wrong way.
Proud of the original work we do and the markets-focused global audience we have developed, I have to question the value of Exchange Invest’s overall content to readers/investors given this purposeful omission. It is at the very least a good head scratcher. Our content has not breached his newsletter to my knowledge, even when the content has featured some of his favorite targets.
In light of this slight, we have subsequently ignored Exchange Invest and Mr. Young’s musings for the most part in JLN. If we were not relevant to him, he was certainly not relevant to our readers. And I don’t care to pass on ad hominem attacks.
To be fair I should note that in recent months Mr. Young has admiringly mentioned me in his newsletter, most notably when I had to rush home from IDX when my wife had an emergency appendectomy and after my column on the late and longtime SFOA CEO Paul-Andre Jacot. Since we are both headed to Geneva for the Burgenstock conference, maybe we will get a moment at a cocktail party to discuss this issue.
This industry may be global in nature, but it is still a tight community that Mr. Young has participated in and fallen out of for a variety of reasons. As such, he is a controversial subject of discussion, gossip and debate.
Yet, what everyone wants in this business is to be relevant. That is what Bürgenstock is fighting for – to remain a relevant event on a crowded conference calendar. Whether Mr. Young is part of the solution for the conference or someone who represents better days of yesteryear is debatable, but will be decided later this month.
While my history with Patrick Young, along with many in the industry, is complicated, I think we both genuinely want the Bürgenstock conference to be successful. We can agree on that, even if we don’t see eye to eye on other issues.