New York-based symphony Communications Services Holdings LLC is introducing a new service that will allow financial services institutions and financial advisors to store all digital communications – whether they be emails, text messages or social media communications – in a central platform that will help both firms and their advisors to manage their business dealings better.
“People have too many ways to communicate, and it’s becoming difficult to manage all those platforms together,” says David Gurle, Symphony’s CEO. “We want to be able to help our clients become more efficient and improve their overall workflow and productivity. [Our system] is much more efficient than if you would be using all these communication tools separately”
Symphony’s cloud-based tool provides advisors with a single portal to access all methods of digital communication. Once you sign up for the service, you will be able to log into the Symphony network and connect all your social media networks, email accounts and mobile devices to the platform. Once your networks are linked, you will be able to manage all accounts through one interface, as well as logging all your communications.
The Symphony platform could pose a threat to competing instant-messaging platforms, says Jennifer Evans, co-founder of SqueezeCMM Inc. and Digital Fieldwork Inc. in Toronto, who has worked in digital marketing for 16 years. Competitors include Bloomberg LP, Markit Ltd. and Thomson Reuters Corp.
“This [Symphony] platform is something we’ve never seen before,” Evans says. “When the platform is built [by] someone who is in the industry, there’s so much more sophistication and more insider information that has been built into it. The fact that is was built for the [financial services] industry by [that] industry is really distinct from anything else. There is no platform that is going to be able to touch it.”
With Symphony, if you are instant messaging one party, you can be alerted to an incoming email, text message or social media update. You can customize “alerts” that pop up into your main control panel to your specific needs. As well, the main portal will be able to provide you with “news alerts” from various providers, such as social media networks or your firm’s research department.
“This is also a ‘content consumption’ tool,” Gurle says. “We already know that websites such as Twitter are known to break news faster than some of the major news agencies around the world. But we want to enable other content providers to stream content into the same environment. This could include industry research reports, court decisions or legal reviews, depending on the individual’s needs.”
Since Symphony’s announcement about its platform in early October, Gurle has received several hundred requests from interested parties – including financial services institutions across Canada, Europe and Asia.
“The platform is providing a solution to a problem that really resonates with the entire industry, on a global scale,” says Gurle. “And we are actively engaged in conversations with these firms at the moment.”
Symphony won’t be launched to the public until the summer of 2015; it will be rolled out as a beta-stage product in the first quarter of 2015.
Symphony already has some major financial heft behind it. New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc., along with 13 partner financial services firms in the U.S., invested US$66 million to create Symphony. The system has been rolled out to about 25,000 Goldman Sachs employees.
Symphony will charge corporate clients a monthly fee for the platform; the fee will depend upon how much customization and data storage is required. Individual clients will be able to access the platform for free.
One of the big differentiators for the platform is that it is “open source,” which means users can customize it. Says Gurle: “If a financial services institution wants to integrate the system with its own data sources, its own directory and its own archiving system, it can do all these things.”
Messaging within the financial community has been an ongoing problem, as the different messaging platforms have to be secure and monitored individually.
Also, regulators require firms to be prepared to monitor advisors’ social media activity fully, as well as to archive and store all communications that are conducted on social-networking websites. Many firms have brought in third-party providers to help solve the compliance issues and provide email and instant communication-archiving solutions.
Symphony is able to record and log all communications that occur on its platform, although Gurle is quick to point out his platform is not in the business of archiving – for the time being: “Firms will still be required to ensure they’re storing and archiving data according to the regulatory standards in their country. Archiving is not a core business for us; but if our customers asked for that service, we would have to sit down and think about it.”
However, Bruce Milne, executive vice president with Austin, Tex.-based Socialware Inc., is doubtful about how successful a third-party portal could work as a monitoring service for advisors, as they would still be able to access social media websites without using Symphony’s platform.
“It may be the firm’s policy for them to use the portal,” he says, “but many will work around that limitation or simply avoid using social networks altogether.”
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