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Symphony challenges Bloomberg with $1bn pricetag

Messenger raises interest of New York's financial services department.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Silicon Valley’s burgeoning market for messaging apps looked to be further heating up as reports emerged Symphony could be seeking a $1bn (£640m) valuation.

Based in Palo Alto, the firm is said by the Wall Street Journal to be approaching venture capitalists and financial groups for additional funding, which could see the firm claim the vaunted "unicorn" status of a ten-figure pricetag.

Such a funding round would bolster Symphony’s existing backers, which include 14 investment banks such as Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs, who invested $66m in the company last year.

At present the messaging firm is testing its technology with a number of unnamed investment banks, finance having special need for secure communications due to the sensitivity of the information it handles.

Should the Symphony court widespread adoption it could displace communication on Bloomberg’s widely used Terminal, which runs a messaging service called Instant, as well as Reuters’ Eikon Messenger.

Last year Symphony’s chief executive David Gurle claimed his company already had interest from institutions representing half a million potential users.

Key selling points for the messenger include its encryption and a lowering of costs, with Symphony promising to undercut Bloomberg on the messaging side of things.

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However earlier in July, Symphony came into the crosshairs of New York’s Department of Financial Services, after the public body’s acting superintendent Anthony Albanese requested more information on the company’s products.

"In recent years, there has been a series of market manipulation schemes at Wall Street banks, including those to rig benchmark interest and foreign exchange rates," Albanese wrote in a public letter.

"Key evidence that regulators used to uncover and investigate those schemes was found in chat room transcripts and other written communications retained by the banks."

The use of instant messaging has posed a problem for financial groups looking to remain compliant due to the informal language used in such programs and the possibility of staff using consumer-facing apps for business.

Among the areas of interest listed by Albanese concerning Symphony were its data deletion, end-to-end encryption and use of open source software.

Other software companies are also looking to take on demand for messaging and collaboration tools within businesses, which has prompted other large investments in fledging firms.

In April Slack, a social app for the workplace, raised $160m in a funding round, leaving it valued at $2.8bn.

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