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The mane event

If one of your colleagues came in to work on Thurs-day growling like a lion, chances are they were at this year&#39s PIMS event.

If your colleague came in to work with bags under their eyes, raging hangovers and a vague recollection of making a business deal at 3am in the ship&#39s disco, they were definitely among the 500 delegates on board.

The closing address of the conference was delivered by South African management guru Ian Thomas, a former game ranger who spent 20 years studying lions and now translates the survival laws from the plains to the world of business. The audience was captivated by his impersonations of a pride of lions.

The event opened in a similarly rabble-rousing way with a short stand-up routine from Shadow Chancellor Michael Portillo. The jokes were expertly delivered but it was then straight down to business, with the failure of the current Nat-ional Insurance system in providing for long-term ret-irement welfare dominating the keynote address.

Many people seemed surprised that he kept the engagement, given that it was election week, but what politician would give up the ego-boosting opportunity to address a mainly true blue audience?

By the time delegates had made it to the lion man, they had spent two and a half days at speeches with titles ranging from What the 21st Century Customer Really Wants, Is the Euro-zone Poised to Catch Up With the US?, The Growth of Alternative Investment Strategies and Their Influ-ence On Stockmarket Beh-aviour and People are Your Greatest Investment.

In between were fund manager presentations, discussion groups and think-tanks on issues such as polarisation, stakeholder pensions and the future for financial services distribution.

This is, of course, on the proviso that people made it to their sessions in the first instance. For not only did you have to fight off your hangover, you also needed a Duke of Edinburgh award to navigate your way around the boat. Even PIMS veterans seemed to spend the entire conference walking down endless corridors or up stairs that led them nowhere, only to find themselves back where they had started and not even sure where they were going.

The schedule was nothing but gruelling. Anyone who left PIMS 2001 with a suntan had clearly not stuck to the programme.

Business was ultimately the name of the game and cards glinted in the sun as they were swapped. Who knows what deals and ventures we will see emerge as a result of the conference.

Clerical Medical was noted for its worthiness in having its stand in the Crow&#39s Nest permanently manned while others swap-ped their indoor locations for a sunny seat on deck.

Unfortunately, the hand-shaking atmosphere was not always extended to Money Marketing, which was on board to produce a conference newsletter every evening. One delegate asked an MM reporter to leave a think-tank bec-ause he felt the paper “brought the whole event downmarket”. Hmm.

He was obviously tucked up in his cabin when fellow delegates were enjoying the ship&#39s cabaret perform-ances. One show was a Queen tribute evening, where men in vests, leather trousers and sequinned jackets belted out Queen favourites while surrounded by a troupe of scantily clad young female dancers. Needless to say, they rec-eived a standing ovation.

Those on board will have witnessed Money Marketing being printed on yellow paper for the first time in PIMS&#39 history because we ran out of pink paper.

This was the 12th PIMS conference at sea and there was a certain element of pride among delegates who had made it through them all. Such veterans, however, cannot but have noticed the change in the event since its earlier days. The emphasis was firmly on int-ernational financial services and investment business.

PIMS no longer fills the Oriana – a technology conference was also on board – and without a doubt many people walked back on dry land at Southampton questioning not whether they would choose to come next year but whether PIMS at sea would be taking place at all.

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