Goldman-Led Group of Firms Buys Perzo to Form Instant-Messaging Company

Fourteen Financial Firms Invest $66 Million

By JUSTIN BAER WSJ
Fourteen of the world’s biggest financial-services firms bought Perzo Inc., an instant-messaging software company, and formed a new technology company that aims to change the way traders communicate.
Led by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the consortium invested $66 million in the venture, called Symphony Communication Services Holdings LLC, according to a statement from Symphony.

Symphony in turn acquired Perzo, a two-year-old startup founded by veteran communications-software executive David Gurle. Goldman contributed its in-house messaging developments to the new company, which Mr. Gurle will lead as chief executive.

The deal, announced Wednesday, capped months of negotiations that had widened recently to include additional banks. In addition to Goldman, Bank of America Corp., Bank of New York Mellon Corp., BlackRock Inc., Citadel LLC, Citigroup Inc., Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Jefferies LLC, Maverick Capital Ltd., Morgan Stanley, Nomura Holdings Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. invested in Symphony.

In the statement, Symphony said it expected that many of the financial firms would be early users of the company’s messaging platform.
“Symphony responds to a pressing need across the industry for better methods of communication and collaboration,” Darren Cohen, global co-head of the Goldman principal-investing arm that spearheaded the talks, said in the statement.
The group’s breadth underlined an industrywide push for software that lets employees trade messages instantly and securely. It also highlights Wall Street’s desire to put pressure on one of its biggest vendors, Bloomberg LP. Bloomberg’s communications services remain a ubiquitous presence on trading floors, and the price the data company charges for its terminal—some $20,000 a year—continues to vex bank executives charged with wringing costs out of their trading businesses.
A Bloomberg spokesman declined to comment.

The deal is also a reunion of sorts for Mr. Gurle, who worked with Goldman and other banks during previous career stops at Microsoft Corp., Thomson Reuters Inc. and Skype. He founded Palo Alto, Calif.-based Perzo in late 2012.

In a blog post on Symphony’s website, Mr. Gurle wrote that the new company’s messaging platform “is intended to be used by some of the most time-conscious firms on the planet who are regularly corresponding high-value information—where a delay of a few seconds can have significant cost implications.”
He wrote that Symphony would be available to all financial firms by mid-2015.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the bank group was also in talks with one of Mr. Gurle’s former employers, Thomson Reuters, over ways to integrate their messaging platforms.

On Wednesday, a Thomson Reuters spokesman confirmed the data company had held discussions with Symphony.

The news services of Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters compete with Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Journal.
Write to Justin Baer at justin.baer@wsj.com

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