Symphony looks to Asian expansion with CEO move, new investment

PHOTO: Wechat

Symphony Communications Services LLC is relocating its chief executive to Singapore and targeting Asian investors as it looks to expand its Wall Street chat technology into the region.

David Gurle, who is currently based in the company's Palo Alto headquarters, will move to the Southeast Asian city-state in the first quarter of next year, a Symphony spokeswoman said.

Gurle's relocation comes as Symphony is in talks to raise between $100 million to $150 million in funding from new and existing backers, according to people familiar with the deal.

The company has held discussions with potential investors based in Asia for the new round, which would value it at just over $1 billion, one of the people said.

The sources asked for anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Symphony spokeswoman Samantha Singh declined to comment on the funding round, saying the messaging company was already well-funded.

She said Gurle was moving to Singapore, "to help spearhead" the company's push into the region, but that Asia had always been a "key market from day one."

The Asian market for messaging technology is dominated by Tencent Holdings Ltd's popular Chinese WeChat app.

Many Chinese traders already use WeChat as the preferred way to communicate and say moving over to another messaging platform would require convincing their investor clients to do the same.

Using mobile messaging and social media apps for trading is not unlawful in China.

The proliferation of WeChat users at banks has attracted the attention of Asian regulators, but they have historically tended to be less stringent than their US counterparts.

The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission code of conduct does not prohibit the use of social messaging apps, but encourages the strict recording and time stamping of all communications and says the use of mobile phones for orders is"strongly discouraged."

This has created an opportunity in Asia for Symphony, which touts the security of its messaging service, some of the people said.

Prior to launching Symphony's predecessor Perzo, Gurle spent several years in Singapore working for Thomson Reuters Corp , the parent company of Reuters.

Symphony was created in 2014 when a consortium of 14 financial institutions led by Goldman Sachs Group Inc acquired Perzo, in a joint effort to change the way their traders communicate.

The Symphony service is a rival to financial market messaging services offered by Bloomberg LP and Thomson Reuters.

The system allows financial firms, corporate customers and individuals to put all their digital communications - chats, texts, tweets and emails - on one centralized platform, aimed at creating a flexible and secure messaging service.

While traction for Symphony is not yet widespread across Wall Street trading floors, there are signs that may be changing.

Money manager BlackRock Inc, also an investor, is moving its internal chat for employees to Symphony.

Symphony has 116,000 users, and expects the number to grow to 130,000 before the end of the year, Singh said.

The company's Asia push comes about a year after it raised $100 million from investors including technology giant Alphabet Inc, banking groups UBS, Societe Generale and Natixis and European VC firm Lakestar.

The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that Symphony is looking at a new round of funding.