Waltham, Mass. - While the NICSA Technology Forum was taking place at the stylish Seaport Hotel on Boston's waterfront last week, a new, lesser-known conference - the Emerging Technology Conference - was taking place here on the quiet suburban campus of Bentley College.
Just over a dozen companies were assembled at the National Investment Company Service Association (NICSA) conference to show their wares to mutual fund executives in a demonstration hall at the Seaport Hotel. Meanwhile, an assortment of fund company and service provider executives spoke on the future use of technology in the fund industry. About 240 people attended the conference.
At Bentley, another dozen companies demonstrated their products for an audience of less than 100 in two college buildings.
Though it was seemingly taking place in the shadow of the NICSA conference, on the same two days, the Emerging Technology Conference positioned itself as a different event, where technology start-up firms and others could display their products and services to the mutual fund and venture capital communities.
NICSA calls its conference a gathering of "industry leaders, technologists and visionaries" to examine the effect of technology on the mutual fund industry, according to its literature.
Since it was being held for the first time, the Emerging Technology Conference had not yet found its niche. Attendees appeared to be there for a wide variety of reasons. The forum was sponsored by Graylyn Associates, a consulting firm in Chatham, Mass., and Harte-Hanks Response Management, a management consulting firm in Austin, Texas.
David Sherman, director of electronic commerce at GreenPages, an Internet company in Kittery, Maine, spoke at the conference and set up an exhibit.
One of the reasons his company came to the conference was to impress some mutual fund companies which might buy its stock if the company goes public someday, as it hopes, Sherman said. In Sherman's presentation and at the company's booth, much was made of the fact that IBM and Compaq were among its clients and of its rigorous hiring method and supportive work environment.
DiaLogos is a Boston consulting firm that has numerous mutual fund companies - from the American Express Funds to Vanguard - as its clients. And many of its employees used to work at fund firms, so the company already has a lot of contacts in the fund industry.
The company gets most of its mutual fund business through referrals from other companies and partners, said James Duncan, director of management consulting for the firm. The company is "100 percent self funded" so it was not looking for venture capital, he said. The company was primarily on hand to build business, Duncan said.
RadNet is a technology firm in Wakefield, Mass., that was attending the Emerging Technology Conference to pitch a new Internet product called PortalWorksX to the mutual fund industry.
The company sent Radu Pasovschi, senior vice president and general manager for its financial services business unit, to the conference to explain the new product which helps fund companies customize advisor websites.
Company officials said RadNet had already presented the new product to analysts and planned a news conference soon. The company viewed the Emerging Technology Conference as part of its publicity campaign, they said.
Darby Hobbs, president of Graylyn Associates, said she hoped to have 20 exhibitors at the conference next year.