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Sibos – the Olympics of Banking

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Sibos – the Olympics of Banking

For over four decades, SWIFT's Sibos event has been the premier annual gathering for the global financial industry. Sibos provides a platform for banks, financial institutions, technology companies, and industry leaders to connect, share best practices, and to discuss the latest trends and challenges in the financial services space.

For me, it is the "Olympics of Banking". Anyone who has been to a Sibos knows that you must be like an Olympic pentathlete to survive.  Sometimes you will be running. Sometimes you will be swimming. Perhaps you will be riding…

Sibos goes from early morning bank and vendor breakfasts to dinners, party invitations and late-night clubbing. All the time, the players are focused on doing business. Many banks and providers gauge their year based – at least in part - on having a good or bad Sibos.

Sibos started in 1978 when SWIFT, the global provider of secure financial messaging services, launched its first international banking operations seminar in Brussels. The event was aimed at educating the global banking community on the use of SWIFT's new messaging system. Since then, Sibos has evolved into a massive week-long event that attracts thousands of delegates from all over the world.

One of the most memorable Sibos events occurred in 2000 in San Francisco. During the event, 500 protesters stormed the Moscone Center and disrupted the keynote address by former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. Despite the chaos, Sibos went on and successfully convened the financial industry's most influential players, discussing topics such as the future of banking, the role of technology in finance, and cybersecurity. The highlight was the legendary  party on board the retired aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet: those decks were rockin’ that night!

In 2008, Sibos traveled to Vienna, where over 8,500 delegates from 134 countries came together to explore the theme, ‘Harmony: The New Imperative’. This Sibos event saw notable speakers like: Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus; former Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky; and Sir Bob Geldof, musician and founder of Band Aid and Live Aid. This event ended with what was the last of the all-out Sibos parties. It was hosted at the Hofburg Palace, former home of the Habsburg Emperors. It was a fitting end to the Thursday night surprise parties of Sibos.

The year 2011 marked another significant Sibos event, held in Toronto. This four-day event attracted a record 8,000 delegates and featured an impressive line-up of speakers, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Indian banker Chanda Kochhar, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, among others. This Sibos event discussed topics such as leadership, innovation, and diversity, among other things.

In recent years, Sibos attendance has continued to grow, with nearly 11,100 delegates from 150 countries attending the 2019 event in London. Besides attendees, Sibos also attracts a significant number of banks, with more than 200 institutions exhibiting.

For the Sibos 2023 event, we are back in Toronto and the theme is ‘collaborative finance in a fragmented world’. This theme is a nod to the challenges and opportunities that banks face in an increasingly digital world.

Sibos 2024 will be held in Beijing, marking the arrival of the event in mainland China.  Many of that country’s most influential leaders and speakers will be attending.

Sibos also has its humorous side. Every year, the SWIFT team puts a lot of effort into creating fun moments for delegates to enjoy outside the serious business of banking. In 2019, for instance, the SWIFT team organized a "Cabaret Night" that had everyone from bankers to fintech enthusiasts dressed up in their most dazzling outfits and dancing the night away to live music.

As the financial services industry continues to evolve, the technologies driving changes in banking, such as AI, will undoubtedly remain an important focus for Sibos. AI and machine learning, combined with big data analytics, are transforming how banks operate, allowing them to make faster, data-driven decisions and providing more personalized customer experiences. AI is a game-changer, with Gartner predicting that AI in banking will deliver $450 billion in business value by 2024.

In conclusion, SWIFT's Sibos event is undoubtedly a must-attend for any professional in the financial industry. The event offers tremendous opportunities to learn, to network, and to share insights and experiences with other like-minded professionals from all over the world. Whether it's the serious business of banking or more lighthearted social events,

Sibos never fails to deliver. We can't wait for the 2023 event in Toronto to continue the tradition of the iconic global event that is the Olympics of Banking.

 

 

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