David Gurle: «I'm Not the 'Bloomberg-Killer'»

David Gurle, Symphony

Banks are wielding the axe on costs. finews.asia interviews a Silicon Valley entrepreneur with a new way to lessen bankers' reliance on pricey chat terminals.

Bankers love their Bloomberg terminals, which have become so ubiquitous to finance that a Blackrock fund manager's wedding cake was reportedly fashioned in the shape of the finance tool

Chats and instant messaging tools like Bloomberg's remain a mainstay of Wall Street's trading day, despite resulting in numerous scandals over collusion, manipulation and rigging.

1/100 of Bloomberg's Price 

Part of the reason for Bloomberg's dominance despite a recent price hike and more recent competitors like Thomson Reuters' Eikon tool is the ease of its messaging service housed within the pricey financial terminal.

David Gurle, founder and CEO of Palo Alto, CA-based Symphony, has a simple answer to that. Instead of paying $20,000 a year for a Bloomberg terminal and chat access, he charges users $15 per month – less than one one-hundredth of Bloomberg's price – for Symphony messaging.

It's an appealling message to banks like Credit Suisse, which are struggling to chop their spending by billions.

UBS, Google as Investors

«Before 2008 and now, we are talking about a ten-fold increase in cost pressure, so the cost pressure is going to continue to drive hugely a simplification of how market data is collected, aggregated and used,» Gurle told finews.ch in an interview.

Symphony has quickly attracted users and shaken up the competition: it is working with Dow Jones to offer news as well, and with McGraw Hill for data and analytics. 

The company has raised $166 million from financial investors including UBS, J.P. Morgan, and Google – some of the same firms Symphony is looking to sell its services to.

2018 Break-Even

«Everybody needs a way to reach out to their counterparts and coworkers in a way that is seamless and that’s what Symphony enables, with the peace of mind that your data is protected and you meet your regulatory requirements,» Gurle said. 

In the nine months of its existence, it has roughly $10 million in revenue and attracted more than 100,000 paying users.

Gurle expects to break even in 2018, without raising prices. The idea is to scale up volume with large communities of bankers, not by hiking prices.

«Bloomberg-Killer»

Gurle has been dubbed the «Bloomberg-Killer». While he concedes that Symphony's growth will come partly at the expense of the financial giant's terminals, he says Symphony's plans are different from Bloomberg's.

«Bloomberg meets a very narrow part of financial services' needs, and I think they have done a very good job of it. We are serving a much broader base of financial services,» Gurle said.

Netflix, Zattoo

Specifically, what Gurle refers to as the «all-in aggregators» are being challenged by the unwrapping or unbundling of services.

Much like television and movie viewers are increasingly streaming their entertainment through services like Netflix or Zattoo, technology is giving Bloomberg a run for its money too, he argues.

Competitor Microsoft

«In the end, people want choice and choice has to happen at a fair economic value value. If Bloomberg can continue to meet the needs of choice at a fair economic value, and the alternative is not a very good one they will continue to strive. If not, it will be very hard for them to survive.»

Microsoft messaging is Symphony's stronger competitor at the moment, a vestige of when IT departments made decisions of software services.

Microsoft hasn't put the same focus on investment banking as Bloomberg has – the U.S. software giant doesn't offer group messaging, for example, and its technology can look and feel out-dated in comparison to Bloomberg's slick appeal.

Healthcare, Governments

Gurle plans to take Symphony to other industries like healthcare or governments, building on the stringent requirements for resilience, performance, security and ownership of data that is typical of banking.

«If you satisfy the financial services market, you have a very good passport for other industries,» Gurle said. 

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