Shadow of Europe darkens bankers' Paris meeting

Thu Jun 27, 2013 12:56pm EDT
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By Steve Slater and Laura Noonan

PARIS, June 27 (Reuters) - The plush backdrop of the Westin Vendome hotel in Paris had champagne on ice on the bar throughout this week's Institute of International Finance (IIF) conference but no bankers were spotted popping the corks.

Five years after the financial crisis and more than three years after Greece heralded a new threat to Europe's long-term prospects, the woes of the euro zone continue to weigh heavily on banking sector leaders.

News late on Wednesday that EU politicians agreed a plan to force bondholders to take losses at failing banks came too late to lift the gloom. It also robbed the event of its main speaker, with French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici whisked away to Brussels to discuss the deal.

"The mood is no different this year to last year. That's noticeably different to the U.S.," said one American attendee at the event. "Over here you don't get that sense (of improvement) at all."

The closing dinner for more than 400 people was staged at La Salle Wagram - an impressive theater in Paris' 17th arrondissement less than 100 meters from the Arc de Triomphe with a lengthy red carpet for delegates to walk down.

But the lavish touches of opera and cannon fire that marked last year's event in Hamlet's castle near Copenhagen, or an even grander banquet in Beijing four years ago, were missing - some reflection, perhaps, that organisers were seeking to be more in tune with the recessionary times.

With excess out, the focus for the group's more than 450 members from the financial industry was on what it dubs the three Rs - regulation, reputation, and risk - and the chance to rub shoulders with politicians, regulators and investors.

Jean Claude Trichet, gradually returning to public life 18 months after ending a tough stint as European Central Bank President, made two speeches (his own, and one to fill in for the missing Moscovici) and could be heard telling jokes on the sidelines among groups of delegates.   Continued...