July 17, 2015 / 6:25 PM / 2 years ago

Symphony's Wall Street messaging system aims to widen reach

NEW YORK, July 17 (Reuters) - Symphony Communication Services LLC, a Wall Street-backed messaging and information startup, is about to start offering its product more widely.

The company, which has more than 30,000 users in a “beta” version of its product, will roll out a new interface and iPhone application for them on Monday, Chief Executive David Gurle told Reuters in a recent interview. Most of the current users work at one of the 14 financial firms that invested $66 million in Symphony last fall.

Many on Wall Street think of Symphony as a rival to Bloomberg LP and Thomson Reuters Corp, which provide messaging and information services for bankers, traders and investors. Those terminals can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year for each customer.

On August 3, Symphony will preview the interface for new customers who have at least five employees. On September 15, its product becomes available to all potential customers, including investment and trading firms as well as non-financial businesses and individuals. Some customers will be able to use the system free. The cost will max out at less than $30 per month.

A Bloomberg spokesman declined to comment. A Thomson Reuters spokesman noted the company is collaborating with Symphony so that its own system, Eikon, can work with it.

Symphony, which borrows features from communication tools offered by companies ranging from Microsoft Corp to Slack Technologies Inc, may have aspirations beyond Wall Street, according to some involved in its development.

The system’s interface is reminiscent of Apple Inc’s operating system. Like Facebook Inc or Twitter Inc, it allows users to create profiles and post statuses embedding images or video, hashtagging phrases and “cashtagging” ticker symbols. And as on LinkedIn Corp’s platform, they can network with users from other companies.

‘AVAILABLE BANDWIDTH’

However, the crucial features that appeal to banks and other corporations relate to compliance and data security, Symphony executives and users said.

Symphony’s technology was first developed by Goldman Sachs to help employees monitor multiple communications tools. A bond salesperson, for example, might communicate via text, email, and even external services like Twitter, where Goldman could not monitor communications. So, Goldman technologists created one product for employees to access all sources of information.

Eventually the bank merged its product with a similar one that Gurle had been developing and rebranded it as Symphony, the start-up that Goldman and other Wall Street firms invested in last October. (link: reut.rs/1fMEZWc)

In user numbers, Symphony is still far behind Bloomberg, which has more than 325,000 subscriptions globally, and Thomson Reuters’ Eikon Messenger, which has over 210,000 users, Gurle acknowledged in an interview.

But the French native who previously worked at Thomson Reuters and Microsoft said Symphony is growing quickly. He did not provide an estimate of how many users may be on Symphony by fall.

“It’s a question of available bandwidth,” he said about the company’s growth.

Gurle has been traveling to get Symphony on desktops abroad, and is working to get its “foot in the door” at blue-chip companies outside of the financial sector through their treasurer’s offices, he said.

Symphony, which has grown from roughly a dozen employees to more than 130 over the last year, recently opened an office at New York’s new World Trade Center building. (Reporting by Lauren Tara LaCapra; Editing by Christian Plumb)

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