CEO Chat: David Gurle, Symphony
What is your current situation and how are you running business operations for your company?
Since the initial coronavirus outbreak in China we have seen record surges in the use of our platform, first across our customers in APAC, then in Europe and now in the United States. For example, in the first three months of the year, we saw a 40+% increase in daily active users versus 10% over that same time period in 2019. Similarly, we have seen an increase of 280% in average daily volume of messages being sent, which is 12 times last year’s increase.
Our customers – financial services professionals, who operate in one the most regulated industries in the world – have sent those employees who can work remotely home, and for groups like traders, who for compliance and infrastructure reasons must work on-site, they have implemented what is called “split operations,” whereby they divide and distribute teams across a number of secondary locations outside of financial centers. These new measures have of course dramatically increased activity on our platform, as firms use Symphony to stay in touch with each other, as well as their larger business ecosystem, including external firms and suppliers. In fact, we are considered to be a critical vendor. Many of our customers have asked to see our business continuity plan as the technology we provide is a key element in their own operations and business continuity plans.
By design, we are built for over-capacity, so we were able to quickly scale to meet this new demand seamlessly – which is crucial, as we see usage on the platform surge everyday. In terms of our internal operations, all of our employees are working remotely. During this time the health and well-being of our staff is of the greatest importance.
What are the key implications of the current situation for capital markets firms in terms of trading & technology?
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the economy and businesses globally, financial services firms have implemented new BCPs to keep their employees safe. Employees who are able to work remotely are sent home, and traders – who face much greater compliance standards – are divided into teams and sent to secondary office locations. These firms have increasingly relied on collaboration technology to stay in touch as seamlessly as possible while not in the office. As we previously mentioned, we’ve seen not only an increase in the numbers of users, but also a significant increase in the volume of messages exchanged on the platform on a daily basis. We’ve also seen customers increasingly turn to other capabilities such as video calls and screen sharing to keep operations running while remote.
With Wall Street firms sending traders home, how can they maintain compliance standards?
Wall Street firms have limited options in terms of collaboration tools, as they are part of a regulated industry with high reporting standards. Symphony was actually born out of the need for a secure and compliant communication platform for the world’s financial institutions – that’s why we provide end-to-end encryption, on-premise key ownership, and enterprise-class admin control into one extensible platform.
While many financial services professionals are working virtually, most traders are working at isolated secondary office locations, as many of the other tools they use, (unlike Symphony which was designed for remote and mobile use), are not easily remoted.
What are vulnerabilities necessary WFH policies have exposed on Wall Street and across financial services?
Coronavirus and the remote work – including working from home- it has spurred have exposed vulnerabilities in Wall Street’s infrastructure, which is heavy and not easily remoted. However, like other crisis situations this industry has faced – from 9/11 to the 2008 global financial crisis – Wall Street will emerge with a keen understanding of these vulnerabilities and the opportunities to be addressed (if they haven’t already been addressed in this period). With each crisis, deeper preparation becomes imprinted into Wall Street’s DNA.
We have heard consistently from our customers that they would not have been able to manage their transition to split and remote operations without our technology. We are humbled by their feedback and proud to be supporting the world’s financial institutions through this challenging period.
After the COVID-19 pandemic is over, we should expect to see firms maintaining fully operational secondary office locations and investing in new infrastructure that would allow traders to work remotely while adhering to compliance and security standards.
What are longer-term implications of such a huge remote work experiment?
COVID-19 is jumpstarting the conversation around longer-term work-from-home policies and what the future of this could look like. What we have learned is that companies need to be prepared for situations such as these and have the technology and business continuity plans in place to enable normal business operations through remote – yet secure – work. At Symphony, we are committed and prepared to keep our customers up and running if remote work became the new normal.
Scrutiny, compliance, risk management and the mission-critical nature of the core foundations of the modern business era in the digital world are the most important pillars for running the world economy today. Across the board, there is an increased degree of awareness around this and we expect to see greater investment in this area, especially amongst capital markets firms, in order to enable stronger compliance factors.
What trends are you seeing in Asia’s business recovery and how might that impact the U.S.?
In Asia, it is clear that not everything will go back to how it was before the pandemic at least for months to come. People are trying to figure out and adjust to the “new normal” which includes not being able to have face-to-face meetings, not being able to host conferences and greater use of collaboration technology.
We are observing the activity growth on our platform as well between 100% and 500% – depending on the way we look at the data – and the trend should continue as this wave continues to impact the US and EMEA.