In another example of the power of technology to disrupt the status quo, news broke yesterday that the start-up Symphony Communications will begin selling its new messaging service to institutional financial services customers in August.
According to the company’s website, “Symphony’s open messaging and workflow platform delivers a seamless communication hub for streamlining access, enhancing collaboration, bolstering productivity, and connecting users to a robust professional community.”
Normally a start-up’s new offering for a well-established market dominated by huge corporations wouldn’t get much notice. What’s different about the news from Symphony is the company’s backers and the product’s backstory.
First, the backstory. Two years ago, executives at Goldman Sachs learned that some reporters from Bloomberg’s news service were accessing the company’s terminals to snoop on some of the investment bank’s employees. Among other things, reporters were able to see when and how often Goldman staffers had logged in to their Bloomberg terminals, and which functions they used most often.
After being confronted by Goldman Sachs’ execs, Bloomberg disabled the function that had allowed the spying within 24 hours, but the damage was done. Goldman’s leaders were rightly worried about what else about its strategies and business activities could be gleaned from confidential communications being conducted via Bloomberg’s ubiquitous terminals. They decided to do something about it, and Symphony was born.
Then there are the other backers, the banks and asset management firms that presumably had similar concerns because they became Symphony investors. That list includes: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BNY Mellon, BlackRock, Citadel, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Jefferies, JPMorgan, Maverick Capital, Morgan Stanley, Nomura and Wells Fargo.
With around 30,000 users today, Symphony has a way to go to win over the more than 320,000 users of Bloomberg’s messaging product, Instant Bloomberg. But given Symphony’s open yet secure approach, and its premier list of backers, we like their chances. For institutional financial services companies that are looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their operations, agile startups like Symphony are a better bet than ever.