“Sibos is moving 8,000 people” 
Panos Tzivanidis is Head of Sibos and Events, SWIFT
You were attending the UIA annual conference in Brussels when a crucial question about sustainability came up: “Should international associations reduce travel?” What is your point of view?
There are many different dimensions to ‘travelling’ for an event and making an international event more sustainable. In my view, international associations can make an effort to reduce travel, but the benefits of bringing members together in a physical event far outweigh those of virtual meetings and teleconferences. If an association is ‘international’, its membership is global by nature. It would therefore be unfortunate to reduce travel to the extent that one jeopardizes face time with clients, customers and peers. International associations and any association or company that organises international events has a corporate social responsibility to be sensitive to eco-friendly travel. It is imperative to analyse your audience and identify destinations/cities within easy reach of transportation – by air, train, bus or car. Consider also offering delegates the possibility to ‘carbon offset’ their travel. This option requires careful identification of a programme that makes sense to your delegates, members, Board and industry. Even in the case of a more remote destination this is an opportunity to work closely with the local community to advance socio-economic projects. It is interesting to note that these projects exist everywhere, not only in under-developed countries and these communities can benefit from international exposure.
In your presentation you said: “We are moving 8,000 people for Sibos, our annual conference”. Since 2009 in Hong Kong you are “greening” your event. How?
In 2009, our CEO publicly announced, during the closing plenary of Sibos our commitment to make Sibos a greener event. Greening an event like Sibos and many other large events, is a great challenge! The team took onboard this challenge and the first thing we discussed was the approach. We asked ourselves the very simple question: What does ‘greening Sibos’ mean to each one of us? If we couldn’t associate our objective with our personal beliefs, it would be difficult to succeed. I must admit it wasn’t easy, as there were many different and sometimes opposing definitions and views. We finally agreed to deal with it on three different levels:
1. Create specific KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for areas that we, as an organiser, control 100% or near to.
For example, reduce all printed material for Sibos by at least 30% in comparison with the previous year, reduce food waste by at least 50%, and use recyclable carpet in all common areas (which represents over 15.000sq.m.).
2. Assist, rather than oblige, our exhibitors to be greener by providing them tools, tips & best practice information.
We created a new (and free) platform available to all exhibitors called the OCL (Online Collateral Library), which enabled every exhibitor to upload their collateral and company information free of charge. This information was accessible for distribution, pre, on-site and post event. Not only did this help exhibitors become greener, it also reduced their costs because they did not need to produce, ship and trash or send back the materials remaining at the end of the conference.
3. Create awareness and involve your audience, delegates and exhibitors.
By communicating what we were trying to achieve, what we were doing and what some of our exhibitors were doing, we generated interest in ‘the cause’. Together with the city and our partners, we also offered delegates opportunities to get involved and be part of the various initiatives.
8,940 participants travelled to Amsterdam for Sibos 2010. Where will it take place in 2011? Please explain why.
2011 brings Sibos to Toronto, Canada. Our event rotates among three main geographic regions: EMEA, Asia-Pacific & Americas. We short list possible cities/venues approximately 7-8 years before the actual event year. We also follow a selection process with the final decision made about 4-5 years before the event. We have a scoring system based on multiple criteria and Toronto scored very high in all areas. Being a main hub with international connections to all major financial centres, the MTCC with its infrastructure and track record, the hotel offering and the compactness of the city, were some of the elements that drove the final decision. We are already in the final stretch of preparations with less than 10 months before the event and I have to say, cooperation with everyone at the centre and city is very good!
Why is this annual event important for the delegates and SWIFT?
Sibos has a unique value proposition for the financial industry. It brings together for one week, under the same roof the most senior people from the banking/payments industry around the world, together with software vendors, service providers, standards setters and multi-national corporations. It offers a vast array of conference sessions relevant to the industry and opportunities to hear and debate with academics, specialists, peers and practitioners in the field. It is a unique networking opportunity and this is where our audience gives Sibos its highest marks. Let’s not forget, that Sibos is a closed; an invitation only event, which ensures that only the right senior people will be present.
How do you blend it with social networks?
The financial community is embracing social media, maybe not as fast as other industries, but for very good reasons! For Sibos and our other events, we are using ‘Twitter’, ‘LinkedIn’ and ‘swiftcommunity.net’, a platform created by SWIFT for all of the community. We are discussing the relevance of other channels such as ‘Facebook’. Last year in Amsterdam we also piloted a specific Sibos application for iPhones, which we will fully deploy this year in Toronto - for use on multiple platforms.
Globalisation, new technologies… – what are the main challenges for SWIFT?
The challenges for SWIFT around the events we are organising, I would say that are not much different from other major organisations. I personally believe the future will force us to face 3 main challenges, which I like to refer as the 3Ts; Time – Technology – Talent
Time has become a commodity. Everyone is ‘fighting’ for more time, efficiency in the use of time, minimise the travelling time! Everything is ‘time-related’. On top of it, we are asking our delegates to ‘invest’ their time in our event! Our challenge will be to keep proving to them that is worth investing their time with us.
Technology moves fast and most of the times faster than we can follow. Apart from the challenge of identifying the right technology for the right purpose, we will also face an increasing pressure for ‘virtual’ versus ‘physical’ events. And here, technological barriers is only part of the issue… educating our audience on this new reality and helping them changing their mind-set toward virtual events, will require time and funds.
The 3rd “T” for Talent, is more specific to our events industry. I fear that we are loosing the ‘war’ of talent… Who can really understand the Event organiser role and how many young people do you know that they say… ‘When I grow up, I want to study and become a successful Event organiser’…! I personally don’t know many and I am really wondering about how we harness this talent for the future. Technology will be a challenge with this.
Panos Tzivanidis is Head of Sibos and Events, SWIFT. SWIFT is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, a member-owned cooperative through which the financial world conducts its business operations with speed, certainty and confidence. More than 9,000 banking organisations, securities institutions and corporate customers in 209 countries trust SWIFT every day to exchange millions of standardised financial messages. w w w. swift. com