➤ Symphony is prioritizing bringing WhatsApp on to its platform following the successful integration of Tencent's WeChat.
➤ The messaging app has grown its APAC client base by 100% in the last two years.
➤ The CEO is open to an IPO once the company is profitable and has a predictable growth model.
Goldman Sachs-backed Symphony Communication Services LLC recently partnered with WeChat parent Tencent Holdings Ltd. to integrate the two messaging platforms for Symphony's 450,000 banking and financial services users.
CEO David Gurle tells S&P Global Market Intelligence what's next in line for Symphony, and how the company navigates China's complex set of data protection and data sovereignty regulations.
The following is an edited version of the conversation.
David Gurle, CEO, Symphony
S&P Global Market Intelligence: What was the main motivation behind the WeChat partnership announced this month?
David Gurle: Last year, more of our banking customers said they want to talk to their clients on WeChat, so it was customer-driven. China is an important market for our customers as it represents enormous growth potential from a private wealth management perspective and due to its sheer size.
How many of your 450,000 clients are based in Asia?
About 25% to 30% of our global business, which includes wholesale banking service providers, are in Asia. This has grown by 100% in the last 24 months, with significant growth in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Australia in particular.
What regulatory challenges have accompanied this growth in your APAC client base?
Financial regulators including the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Monetary Authority of Singapore are increasingly scrutinizing conversations between financial advisers and their clients and the platforms they use to communicate.
We responded by talking to regulators and understanding what they care about the most — identity management and authentication. This means understanding who and where the user is and making sure everything is logged so there is a clear audit trail. The Tencent partnership, for example, required us to check that data received from a client joining WeChat matched that held by the bank.
Switching to your funding, you previously said the original intention was to raise around $50 million to $75 million. Symphony's valuation now tops $1.4 billion, according to recent reports. Are there plans to continue fundraising?
We were pleasantly surprised by this valuation, after only starting the fundraising process in January this year. The demand from markets such as Asia has been better than expected. We will not carry out any more fundraising rounds.
Any plans for a public market listing?
One day, yes, we will IPO if the market works in our favor and our board thinks it is the right thing to do. My view is that the company needs to be profitable and predictable in terms of how our business grows before we take the company public.
What's next in line for Symphony?
There are essentially five big global messaging networks including Apple Inc.'s iMessage, Facebook Inc.'s Messenger and WhatsApp Inc. and LINE Corp. Having just signed an agreement with Tencent to integrate WeChat, we will make WhatsApp our next priority. That's what our customers seem to want the most, after WeChat.