Google joins $100 million investment in messaging tool Symphony

Google is planting a big stake in Wall Street messaging platform Symphony Communication Services, joining four other firms in a $100 million investment round announced Monday.

Banks and financial institutions led by Goldman Sachs formed Symphony one year ago, putting $66 million into developing the encrypted, cloud-based platform for instant communication and acquiring Palo Alto startup Perzo to help build it. Symphony’s low-cost platform ($15-a-month for employees of large organizations, free for individuals) is widely seen as a competitive challenge to the services available on Bloomberg’s expensive terminals. It officially launched last month and counts 45,000 users so far.

The other investors revealed Monday, all European, are Lakestar, Natixis, Societe Generale and UBS. Symphony declined to reveal how much Google or each of the other firms contributed to the $100 million.

“We’ve been working with Google for quite a lot of time,” said Symphony CEO David Gurle in an interview. The 48-year-old French-born engineer founded Symphony’s precursor Perzo in 2012, and before that had years of experience in developing business communications software at Microsoft, Skype and Thomson Reuters.

A. David Gurle Headshot 4

Symphony has just over 130 employees. About 100 are in Palo Alto and others in New York, London, Singapore and Hong Kong. The new funding round could propel a global expansion, Gurle said.

He said the Google partnership was sparked during meetings last year with Amit Singhal, Google’s head of search. Symphony’s platform could one day integrate with Google’s own work-based applications, such as its documents, spreadsheets or Google Finance. But asked if Symphony could be acquired by Google or its parent company Alphabet, Gurle said “that’s not how we think. Google thinks we as a company have a lot to offer and a lot to innovate.”

The platform, meant to be both secretive and automatically compliant with Wall Street rules, is designed not just for employees at big financial institutions but also the accounting and legal firms and market data providers that work with them.

“People say that the message has become the nervous system of that market,” Gurle said. “People have switched to messaging and they want to make sure it works within their firewalls.”

Symphony’s emerging product came in the crosshairs of regulators earlier this year when the New York State Department of Financial Services questioned whether a feature promising “guaranteed data deletion” would hinder Wall Street regulatory investigations. The agency came to an agreement with the banks behind the service last month that requires them to duplicate copies of the decryption keys for their messages with independent custodians, and retain copies of all messages or chats for seven years.

Above: The Googleplex. (Photo by Matt O’Brien)

 

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