LONDON (Reuters) - Blackrock said on Thursday it was testing new financial messaging app Symphony, the first big global asset manager to confirm it is moving ahead with the system designed to address concerns over security and costs of monitoring staff online.
Blackrock is one of 18 large financial institutions who have invested around $170 million in Symphony, touted as a competitor to existing messenger systems run by Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters (TRI.TO).
"I can confirm that we are piloting the service with a sub-set of our workforce, and are looking to roll it out more widely in the coming months," a spokesman for Blackrock said.
Symphony Chief Executive David Gurle told Reuters last week that the messaging app expects to as much as double its current 75,000 users to between 130,000-150,000 by the end of this year. He said he was aiming for 300,000 by 2018.
Existing messaging systems, Instant Bloomberg messaging and Thomson Reuters' (TRI.TO) Eikon Messenger, have 327,000 and 270,000 users respectively.
Blackrock has a total workforce worldwide of some 13,000, making it one of banks' biggest clients in trading in bonds, currencies and other assets.
Getting a foot in the door with money managers can be crucial in driving takeup of messaging apps, senior industry figures said.
"The challenge is you have to get everyone to boot it up every day. And you need a compelling reason to do that, so Symphony has its work cut out," said Morgan Downey, chief executive of financial terminal business Money.Net and a former global head of commodities at Bloomberg.
"Most customers are on the sell side. But people who drive that flow are the buyside. When one customer gets on a messaging system, 10 people on the sell side will get on that system."
Symphony, which counts 60 banks and other financial institutions as paying clients, expects to have recurring revenues of about $18 million by the end of this year as customer trials give way to communication between institutions.
While a number of banks have told Reuters that Symphony has overcome internal barriers of regulatory compliance and cost, usage for now is confined to relatively small test groups.
U.S. bank Goldman Sachs (GS.N), which began the project, has said that roughly half of its 38,000-strong workforce was on the system. Others have said there were plans for several thousand per institution to be given access in pilot schemes this year.
Editing by Elaine Hardcastle