Last week I told the JLN staff I expected by Wednesday or Thursday this week that FIA would cancel the Boca conference. They looked surprised. It was still surprising today when word first circulated that the Futures Industry Association had cancelled the Boca conference.
Tuesday morning, while I was working on scheduling a video interview for the Boca conference, an email came back to me with the note that the interview was off as Boca was being cancelled. A quick call gave me details that could only come with a decision, not just a rumor. I got lucky.
To prepare for when the cancellation confirmation would come, I started writing the story JLN published Tuesday morning about the cancellation. The story was all ready, with help from Sarah Rudolph’s editing, but no amount of waiting mid-morning would seem to bring the announcement.
On Monday, after we heard a couple of our interviewees were cancelling, I emailed FIA and asked them what the status of Boca was. I asked them if there was a go, no-go date? I did not receive a reply from the usually very prompt FIA staff. I knew a decision was being made.
The call Tuesday morning gave me the detail that the FIA board had voted unanimously to cancel the 2020 Boca conference. I was not surprised by the unanimous vote since many of the board represent the same banks that were restricting travel for employees.
Finally Tuesday morning I decided to force the issue and sent FIA another email. A response came that I would receive a call shortly, and I did. An FIA spokesperson confirmed that Boca would be cancelled. I instantly tweeted this and said an FIA statement would be coming soon.
I had said I would wait for the FIA announcement to publish the JLN story, but when I saw Matt Leising send out a bullet email confirming the cancellation, I went ahead and pushed out the story. I called Jeff Bergstrom as he was on the way to the office and told him to push out the story we published as an email special report. As he was assembling this, the notice from the FIA finally came and we added that to the bottom of the special report.
FIA staff had been watching the situation with the coronavirus and taking calls and emails about the situation over the last week or more. But Monday, the focus switched from an international story to a domestic one. U.S. institutions were restricting employee travel in the U.S., not just overseas. And conferences in the U.S. were being cancelled.
All of a sudden, because of travel restrictions by various firms, panelists were saying they would be unable to attend as their firms were not allowing them to travel. Vendors wanted to know what was going on and one firm displaying at the conference pulled out.
In the end, it was simply the health and well being of the industry that came first to the FIA staff, senior management and board. There was no other solution. It was the right decision.
As I wrote about the coronavirus issue in JLN, I wanted to just present the facts and add as little commentary as possible. I wanted this decision to be organic, not because I or some other parties were calling for Boca to be cancelled. I sensed it was inevitable. It would happen on its own.
This is not the first time a major FIA conference has been held at a time of great market turmoil. I had just arrived in Tokyo in 2008 when the financial crisis hit. The FIA was so desperate for help with the conference they even called on me to replace a panel moderator (Chris Hehmeyer), who stayed home because of the turmoil.
The FIA made the right choice. Given the circumstances, they made the only choice.