Symphony financial messaging eyes 150,000 users this year

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Financial messaging venture Symphony expects to have up to 150,000 users this year, topping its previous estimate as banks and asset managers sign up to a system aimed at addressing concerns over security and the cost of monitoring staff online.

Chief Executive David Gurle told Reuters the messaging app, in which 18 of the world’s biggest financial institutions have invested around $170 million, expected to reach 130,000-150,000 users this year, compared with an initial forecast of 100,000.

Symphony has so far attracted 75,000 users since its launch in September, and is aiming for 300,000 by 2018, he added.

Existing financial sector messaging systems, Instant Bloomberg messaging and Thomson Reuters’ (TRI.TO) Eikon Messenger, have 327,000 and 250,000 users respectively.

Under pressure to cut costs and to monitor employees more closely in the wake of a string of trading scandals, financial institutions are keen to slim down the number of communications systems they use.

But they are also wary of losing access to widely-used messaging systems, such as AOL and Yahoo Messenger, that have become popular in different financial markets.

Gurle said in an interview that Symphony would still allow users to access many popular messaging apps via its system, but communications would be channeled through its platform, thereby limiting IT and compliance costs for customers.

One of its targets was also to replace much of the communication currently done within and between financial institutions by email, he said.

Symphony, which counts 60 banks and other financial institutions as paying clients, should have recurring revenues of about $18 million by the end of this year as internal trials at customers give way to use between institutions, Gurle said

“The product has reached a stable, what I would call a functional level. We are starting cross company communications. In June we will get into one-to-many, many-to-many and other forms of external communications,” he said.

“The community effect should kick off around September.”

Gurle expected the venture, born of a Goldman Sachs internal IT project, would break even when it hits 300,000 of a potential 8 million users in the financial sector, probably in mid-2018.

While a number of banks told Reuters that Symphony had overcome internal barriers of regulatory compliance and cost, usage for now is confined to relatively small test groups.

Goldman said that roughly half of its 38,000-strong workforce was on the system. Others said there were plans for several thousand to be given access in pilot schemes this year.

(Editing by Mark Potter)