Over coffee with… Sven Bossu

SvenBossuThe head of Sibos – an annual conference, exhibition and networking event organised by SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) – tells Caroline Boey how the event has evolved and how a host city is picked

How has Sibos evolved into the event it is today and what are the key objectives?

The key objectives of Sibos have not changed since it started in 1978. It is still about bringing the SWIFT community together to connect, debate and collaborate; independent of the region Sibos is held in.

What has drastically changed is the nature of the debates and the number of participants. In 1978, the key topic was the implementation of messaging standards, whereas in 2016, cyber security and distributed ledger technology were the topics of the week when the event was held in Geneva from September 26-29. As for the number of delegates, it has swelled from 300 to well over 8,000.

How is the next region and city decided, and what are the key considerations and must-haves to be on the shortlist?

Sibos applies a three-year rotation cycle, moving from EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) to the Americas to Asia-Pacific. This cycle rotation has been in place for a long time and is unlikely to change in the future.

The executive committee of SWIFT decides on the city selection based on 10 criteria such as strategic fit, availability, connectivity, local transportation, security, etc. One criteria that is becoming increasingly important is the green factor – how green are both the city and the venue under consideration. A must-have for any city is the ability to offer an overall experience. Just having a nice conference and exhibition centre is no longer sufficient. It is about creating a “Sibos-buzz” throughout the city during the event.

In the Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong (1991, 2009), Sydney (1997, 2006, 2018), Singapore (2003, 2015), and Osaka (2012) have been chosen. What must other cities in the region do to get onto Sibos’ radar?

We tend to go back to cities where we have held successful Sibos events previously – especially for the Americas and Asia-Pacific – which explains the “repeats”.

However, we are open to having an initial discussion with any city in the regions which can meet all our criteria. We are currently signed up until 2023, so the next open slot for an Asia-Pacific Sibos is 2024.

Share some examples of wow moments cities delivered when they hosted Sibos.

We have been very fortunate to have had wow moments at every Sibos – although sometimes it was completely out of our control. Looking at special dates, we were in Berlin in 1989 (the fall of the Berlin Wall), in Singapore in 2015 (its 50th birthday) and it will be in Toronto in 2017 (Canada’s 150th birthday). On a different note, we were in Vienna in 2008 when the fall of Lehman Brothers was announced on the first day of Sibos!

What kind of government and private sector partnership support is Sibos looking for to tip a city in its favour?

We are looking for partnerships which allow us to enhance the event or make the delegate experience even more unique.

For instance, some cities will provide us access to top speakers, while others will open up venues which otherwise remain sealed to the public, or focus on making sure that delegates can discover the city in an efficient way by offering free public transport. It isn’t a single thing we are looking for; it has to be a mix. At the end of the day it needs to be a win-win situation for both parties.

How will you make the next Sibos another wow event? What’s in store at the 2018 event in Sydney?

Well, it is actually Sydney that has something in store. Sibos 2018 will take place in a brand new conference and exhibition centre, which also triggered a complete revamp of the Darling Harbour area. So for those who attended Sibos in 2006, they can expect to discover a completely different city.

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