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Trusted Intermediary

The other day I received an invitation through one of my business associates to sign up for a free account on Symphony.com. For those of you who aren’t already aware of it, Symphony is the Silicon Valley start-up that has set out to disrupt the direct messaging space for the business community needing their communications to be ultra-secure.

The other day I received an invitation through a business associate to sign up for a free account on Symphony.com.  For those of you who aren’t already aware of it, Symphony is the Silicon Valley start-up that has set out to disrupt the direct messaging space for the business community who need their communications to be ultra-secure. Symphony offers a sophisticated encryption and highly flexible messaging platform designed to serve the needs of traders, deal makers, and working groups on all sides of the financial markets.

It’s an impressive looking service and you can check it out for yourself here.  Symphony launched back in 2014 with a powerhouse group of blue chip backers including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and Bank of America. Not surprisingly, federal and state regulators have taken a close look at the Symphony platform to make sure it won’t interfere with effective oversight of the highly regulated financial services industry. Just last month, four of the founding banks that are regulated by the New York State, agreed to some conditions for using the new Symphony platform including a seven year e-record retention policy and storage of decryption keys for all encrypted messages with an independent custodian. (You can read a copy of the regulatory agreement here.)

Symphony’s rapid emergence as a viable communications platform for the financial services industry came about more or less by accident, or more precisely as a result of an egregious overreach made by Bloomberg LLC, which for many years held a near monopolistic position in this space providing communication services to Wall Street traders. With their terminal having established near-universal presence on Wall Street desktops (then global trading floors), Bloomberg had secured an even further competitive advantage by providing instant messaging services through their terminals, which effectively became a preferred means of communication among brokers and buy and sell side participants across global capital markets. I remember back in the 90’s when Bloomberg started to pull away from Reuters (the incumbent for financial and markets related news, data and pricing) due to the popularity and ease of use of its direct messaging service. In many respects they were one of the first companies (perhaps even the first) in the world to appreciate the power of direct messaging in any capacity.

Bloomberg’s dominant position as a market communication channel might have remained insurmountable if not for a serious blunder it made last year. It was revealed that Bloomberg reporters had been routinely using information gleaned from their access to Bloomberg terminal data in order to track the whereabouts of market participants for purposes of reporting breaking news stories. While it doesn’t appear any laws were broken in the process, it turned into a real PR nightmare for Bloomberg and many of its customers were deeply unsettled at the thought that an otherwise trusted vendor was taking advantage of customer login information for its own commercial advantage.  The ultimate blow came when key market players like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs decided to work together in funding and supporting a challenger to their product.

The story of Symphony’s rapid emergence to challenge Bloomberg is interesting to me because, among other things, it demonstrates a critical truth about the way today’s financial markets operate. There is no ingredient more important than trust when it comes to maintaining the smooth functioning of markets. This has been true since the earliest days of international commerce and capital markets, but broke down sensationally along the way. After global economies started emerging from the depths of the 2008 financial crisis, investigations revealed this very cornerstone had indeed been gratuitously abused by several banks, whether through interest rate fixing, FX manipulation or a plethora of other scandals. Arguably the role of trust has become even more important in the digital era, as financial markets simply can’t operate without trusted modes of communication, platforms and other types of intermediaries who provide a means and a method for buyers and sellers to transact over a digital network.

Here at BankerBay we take our role and responsibilities as a trusted intermediary with the utmost seriousness. We see building and maintaining customer trust as essential to the role we play in providing a powerful technology platform for deal makers. And thus all our databases are fully encrypted, maintaining network isolation as an extra level of protection. We use modern encryption methods for transferring as well as storing data and use a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for every link on our platform. That level of security is similar to the protocols used for secure credit card transactions by the best online payments companies in the world.

So while Bloomberg has learned this lesson the hard way and must now face a potentially serious competitive challenge, we understand that trust is fundamental to everything we do as a market intermediary. From the outset we have designed the BankerBay technology and business process in order to ensure that our members’ privacy and confidential information will be preserved and protected. If you are not already a member then I hope you’ll take the chance to sign up for a free trial in order to better understand the benefits of membership. And once you do sign up you’ll be able to see for yourself – there are some market participants that still can be trusted.

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