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Front end: International bonding in Cannes...

Edited by Steven Irvine

The International Securities Market Association returned to the South of France for its 28th annual meeting this year. Those who had been at the legendary two-day bash in Nice 12 years ago, where antique chairs were thrown through unopened windows at one member firm's twelfth floor party, expected great things from Cannes.

Isma veterans reflected that this meeting was not quite so riotous, although it didn't lack its touches of excess. At the welcome beach party, bond traders and other delegates were ushered through floral bridges held by local peasants.

This was immediately followed by the Euroclear party which provided the highlight of the conference: two glass cubicles raised 20 metres above the Hilton's foyer. Inside them, two robotic mermaids dancing with hairdryers blowing their long tresses.

The robots proved to be topless, and soon one of them broke into giggles, betraying the fact that she was a lowly human. One broker instantly made a beeline for the stairs, determined to check out these heavenly creatures by entering one of the cubicles. Fast-thinking security intervened.

The meeting began in earnest next morning in the auditorium of the Palais des Festivals. An experienced delegate advised a younger colleague: "Don't sit at the back.

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