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Bloomberg offers cheaper chat to silence Symphony

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Bloomberg offers cheaper chat to silence Symphony

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Bloomberg offers cheaper chat to silence Symphony

Data powerhouse unbundles messaging service to counter rival’s social network ambitions

Bloomberg suffered a drop in its number of terminals last year for only the second time in its history

Bloomberg is offering cut-price subscriptions to its messaging tool in an effort to fend off competition from Symphony, the rival service backed by some of the biggest names on Wall Street.

For years, the New York-based financial information powerhouse has had a rigid pricing structure, offering terminals that provide services ranging from financial data to messaging for a fixed price — currently $22,000 a year for a bulk deal, over a two-year term.

But Bloomberg has unbundled a core feature, say people familiar with its sales efforts, offering a chat-only service for $10 a month per user, subject to conditions. The company began offering the service, known as Enterprise IB, to certain customers this year and plans to roll it out more broadly by the end of this year.

The move comes amid mounting pressure from Symphony, which is trying to become the financial services industry’s social network of choice by marketing itself as a cheaper, more convenient alternative.

Since launching its $20-a-month communication tools two years ago the Palo Alto-based company has amassed 235,000 paid subscribers, many of them at banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Nomura. About 118,000 are classed as “active,” meaning they have sent or received at least one message within the past month.

“This is a standalone product that services the internal communications needs of our clients,” a Bloomberg spokesperson said.

Last year Bloomberg suffered a drop in terminals for the second time in its history, its total installed base falling by about 3,000 to 324,485, according to Burton-Taylor International Consulting. It remains the clear number one in the $27bn financial data market with a 33 per cent share, well clear of Thomson Reuters with 23 per cent.

David Gurle, chief executive of Symphony, said he believes the launch of Enterprise IB shows his company is winning more of the “super-critical” conversations between different departments within banks which were previously carried out via Bloomberg’s chat tool or other services such as Slack or Skype for Business.

Banks are cutting costs amid persistent declines in revenues from activities such as bond trading. That has led them to reconsider whether employees who used Bloomberg terminals for messaging really needed them, he said.

“In this case, you’re using a very expensive value proposition in which you pay the whole package of information, news, analytics and content — but you are only taking a slice of that,” said Mr Gurle.

Symphony, which emerged in the wake of a snooping scandal at Bloomberg in 2013, has raised about $240m of equity and is looking to raise about $100m more, said a person familiar with its plans.*

But chat services — some of them backed by the same banks as Symphony — have floundered in the past. Bloomberg offers hundreds of functions other than chat, and often copies the best features of competitors to bundle into the terminal at no extra cost. As a result, it has been able to charge the highest prices in the industry, even as customers keep trying to cut financial information costs running into the hundreds of millions a year.

Enterprise IB is available to any customer with at least one Bloomberg terminal, said a person familiar with the service, and can be used only for internal communications in the same firm. Subscribers can swap documents and emails as well as chat, making the service similar in many ways to that of Symphony.

Bloomberg’s move to detach chat from the terminal is “shocking,” said Morgan Downey, chief executive of money.net, a data service that offers Symphony Chat and other chat apps as part of its platform. Before launching the firm in 2014 he ran the commodities business at Bloomberg.

“They’re betting the whole system without chat is worth $21,900 a year. Is it? Maybe for some old bond traders, but for everyone else, I don’t think so.”

* This article has been amended to correct the amount of money raised by Symphony to date

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