The Hong Kong Sevens 2007, which kicks off today and ends on Sunday, is known for being three days of unadulterated drinking, eating and partying, with a little bit of rugby on the side. But it is no secret that it serves as a major corporate hospitality event, especially for the high-flying banking and finance industry. Thousands - if not tens of thousands - of bankers, brokers, traders, dealers and others from the glitzy world of finance are expected to descend on Hong Kong from all corners of the globe for what some describe as the party of the year. Each year the list of corporate box sponsors reads like a who's who in the investment banking world, with the likes of UBS, JPMorgan and title sponsor Credit Suisse competing not on financial deals but for the best decor and best dressed title. Box holders from previous years have included household names such as HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank, CLSA, ING, ABN Amro and American Express. Credit Suisse, which maintains a corporate suite on pitch level right next to the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union box, and two more at the executive level, will decorate its boxes with an anniversary theme to reflect its 10th year as title sponsor. The other title sponsor is Cathay Pacific. And then there are those other bankers and financiers who just come for the rugby. Perhaps the best example of this is Hong Kong's most famous Rugby Sevens fan, the 'Pie Man', Martin Hollis, who used to be a forex trader from London. Mr Hollis, who said that, unfortunately, he would be unable to grace the Sevens this year with his presence because of a commitment at the Dubai Racing World Cup on the same weekend, said he first visited the Sevens in 1993 while visiting an ex-rugby teammate who had moved to Hong Kong. His work in the finance sector subsequently brought him to Hong Kong around the time of the Sevens a few times, but he never liked to mingle with the industry crowd. 'I did visit Hong Kong many times with my work, but I tend not to mix work with pleasure during the Sevens weekend,' he said. But for corporations, especially investment banks, this Sevens is a hook to attract clients from all over to attend the many conferences, meetings and seminars worldwide that are scheduled to coincide with the sports event. Perhaps the biggest is the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference, which has been held in Hong Kong to coincide with the Sevens weekend since 1998. This year the Credit Suisse conference will bring together more than 1,200 Credit Suisse clients and 300 companies from around the world, according to Godwin Chellam, vice-president of corporate communications at Credit Suisse, Asia-Pacific. The clients are fund managers and investors, and the companies invited are the ones the clients want to invest in. For the entire week, chief executives, fund managers and a wide variety of executives would listen to presentations and hold one-on-one meetings with headline economists and senior officials, he said. This year, the honour list will include such notables as Edmund Phelps, the 2006 Nobel laureate in economics, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and India's Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram. The idea behind the conference was to bring together institutional investors who dealt on the Asian stock market and companies they invested in, said Mr Chellam. He added that about a third of the participants at the conference typically stayed over for the weekend to watch the rugby. Some even managed to get some business done with a beer in hand. 'I don't think you can put together business people and not have them talk business,' Mr Chellam said. Warrick Dent, Sevens and commercial manager of the HKRFU, said it was not unusual for bankers to set the foundation for upcoming deals through networking during the Sevens. He also noted that while the Sevens was represented equally by different sectors of the business field, the banking and finance industry was traditionally a stronger supporter. 'If you go into the corporate boxes, you can't see a lot of business going on. It's more about relationship building. People do come along to watch the rugby. They do the business as part of it,' he said. If deals do result from the networking and relationship building that takes place during the Sevens, they usually take months to finalise afterwards. More importantly, financial institutions and other businesses use the Sevens for raising their profile among key customers, for showing their appreciation for past business, or as a way of getting closer to their client base for the future, according to Guy Day, managing director for recruitment firm Ambition. '[Though bankers inevitably talk business at the Sevens], I think the focus is on having a good time and any real business will wait until the Monday morning - or preferably the Tuesday,' he said. He added that it was not unusual for bankers to visit their rivals' boxes, especially since the finance field was such a close-knit community. However, most were less likely to venture into the chaos of the south stands, where most of the tournament's more colourful antics are usually seen. Founded in 1974 by a local business executive, the Rugby Sevens has always been regarded as a popular event for corporate hospitality. But Mr Day said that this had become increasingly the case over the past two to three years, with the economy resuming healthy growth and international tourism booming. In recent years, the event has become so successful that it has reached its capacity to host corporates, according to Mr Dent. 'We have reached the top capacity of our stadium on corporate hospitality. Corporate boxes and suites are booked out two to three years in advance with 90 per cent of companies renewing their booking each year,' he said Despite this, he said the union had no plans to increase the number of corporate boxes next year from the current count of about 150. 'The Sevens is essentially a Hong Kong event, so we want to provide opportunities for local people, the public, and the rugby community to come along and watch rugby,' Mr Dent added.