SYMPHONY EYES NEW INDUSTRIES
Company hopes to diversify into insurance, health, defence and aviation sectors next year
HAVING won over Wall Street and Silicon Valley with a low-cost messaging platform that aims to remake the way traders communicate, Symphony creator David Gurle has set his sights on new industries.
Barely three years old, Symphony quickly caught on in the world of high finance and now counts Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse, Societe Generale and Google among its investors.
BNP Paribas recently joined in, helping bring Symphony’s estimated value to nearly US$1 billion (RM4.32 billion).
Created in 2012 and launched two years later in Palo Alto, California, the system allows users to send private messages, confidentially exchange research and trading strategies and place orders — in real time.
Some have even portrayed the technology as a threat to the Bloomberg terminal’s dominance in trading rooms, although others say that is premature.
“I’d been dreaming about this tool since my childhood,” said Gurle.
He says he further developed the idea after working for France Telecom, Microsoft and Skype, and chose to “disrupt” the financial world because it could open doors to other industries.
“If for example a banker is advising Airbus in a bond issue to finance its next investment, they will work with legal, government and auditing services”, with each communicating on the same platform, Gurle added.
He said he hopes to diversify Symphony beginning next year, moving into sectors such as insurance, health, defence and aviation, building a secured network for businesses.
A son of French and British diplomats, Gurle began his career in France but in January settled in Singapore to expand Symphony in Asia.
While Symphony is not really a head-to-head competitor with Bloomberg it is gaining ground on the dominant player on Wall Street.
Bloomberg offers a vast panoply of services, including research, analysis, trading, data and news, in addition to messaging, at an average yearly cost of US$22,000 per terminal.
While Bloomberg is a closed ecosystem, Symphony by contrast integrates outside services — and with annual subscriptions at just US$180.
This flexibility allowed it to rack up 200,000 users in barely two years, and it is on track to reach 300,000 by the end of this year. There are 325,000 Bloomberg terminal users.
But Spencer Mindlin of the business research firm Aite Group notes that “Bloomberg has been the incumbent for a very, very long time”.
“There still is a long way to go” for any competitor.
Bloomberg, is still the favoured channel between clients and traders, said one Wall Street broker, adding that his firm prohibited traders from using Symphony for outside communications.
Even so, most major banks are using Symphony for internal communications and for employees with administrative and marketing roles, said Mindlin.
Goldman Sachs recently replaced its various internal messaging platforms with Symphony, a spokesman said.
With US$25 million in revenues last year, Symphony’s goal is for a positive cash flow by next year.
Wayne Kurtzman, an analyst at the market intelligence group IDC, said Symphony focused on a highly-regulated industry that stood to gain from collaboration.
This, in addition to its important new features and growing user base, were “all favourable signs for Symphony”, he said.
“The global collaboration market is seeing significant growth, which will continue,” said Kurtzman. AFP