Com­pany hopes to di­ver­sify into in­sur­ance, health, de­fence and avi­a­tion sec­tors next year

New Straits Times - - Business -

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

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