Symphony Expands Its Secure Collaboration Value Proposition

eWEEK COLLABORATION PRODUCT ANALYSIS: COVID-19 will eventually run its course, but the new era of collaboration is here to stay. No one can really be sure what the post-COVID-19 new norm will look like, but the one thing that's certain is that video, meetings, messaging and chat will be part of it. At its virtual Innovate UK event, Symphony unveils a number of new features.

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This week Symphony held a digital version of its UK-based Innovate user conference. Symphony has historically been thought of as “Slack for financial services,” but the company has broadened its offering, which now includes meetings, video, bots, prebuilt applications and a number of integrated applications. What once started off as a niche messaging platform is now a full-featured collaboration tool geared at companies looking for a highly secure service.

Built for Wall Street, Symphony has always been and continues to be security first 

At the event, Symphony CEO David Gurlé announced a number of product enhancements that further the mission of Symphony being the premier collaboration tool for financial services firms of all types and all sizes. Many of the new features are geared toward Symphony’s financial services customers as they maintain business continuity during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Collaboration is obviously very important, but with Symphony, security has always been front and center. Companies in regulated verticals need innovative ways to securely collaborate outside the office, and Symphony has built an entire platform around it.

From social distancing to digital proximity 

During his virtual keynote, Gurlé described what his company is doing as bringing “digital proximity” to “social distancing” with the thought being that, although we are in physically different locations, we can use technology to help us be in close digital proximity. While nothing replaces being there, we can get very close to it. 

Like most collaboration vendors, Symphony has seen an explosion in usage. In Q1 2020, Symphony reached more than half a million licensed users. The collaboration platform saw a 2.1x jump in messages sent from January 2020 through March 2020. In the same time frame, its meetings hosted grew by a factor of 4.3x, and mobile users nearly doubled. Gurlé attributed the jump to a growing need among financial services professionals to stay connected as they work from home in quarantine. The company also has expanded its geographic footprint of where its users are located to different parts of Asia, Africa and Hawaii. It now has users all over the world. 

Symphony extends its reach to WeChat and WhatsApp 

While most messaging platforms are targeted toward letting employees communicate with each other within the same company, most don’t let workers talk to outside participants, such as customers. Even if they do, customers are required to download a guest client. This can be complicated if the same person is trying to talk to different companies. 

Symphony has taken a different approach in which it now offers integrations into WhatsApp and WeChat, so external participants can use a consumer tool while Symphony customers can use their application. Symphony takes care of securing the end-to-end connection to ensure that compliance mandates are still being met. 

Since launching in 2016, Symphony has built its messaging platform around the concept of end-to-end encryption. It has not extended the security to its meetings application, so voice, video and screen sharing all have that same level of security. The company uses a hybrid model where signaling is handled in the cloud and media is routed locally on the customer premises. Local customer-owned encryption keys can only be accessed in their trust zones, so that banks and other financial institutions can meet strict security requirements. This means a breach of the Symphony cloud would render the data useless. 

Video meetings now have end-to-end encryption

The company also announced that the messaging and meetings functions are fully integrated. Financial services firms already using Symphony will soon have the option to start end-to-end encrypted video meetings directly from the platform without additional conferencing software. The solution will serve as a secure alternative to Zoom for companies that require full compliance capabilities. 

Zoom has made great strides in the area of security, but the compliance knobs and levers that Symphony has are tailor-made for financial services. 

Another interesting announcement at the event was the creation of the Symphony Developer Certification Program. This supports the developer community to gain the necessary skills to accelerate digital transformation efforts. As part of the training, developers have access to best practices and to receive recognition for completing the coursework, validating their skills. 

Lastly, Symphony unveiled a number of integrations with other leading software companies, including ServiceNow, PagerDuty, Jira and Gitlab. These are all commonly used applications, and the integration will streamline workflows by letting customers seamlessly move between them. 

Businesses that embarked on a digital transformation journey prior to the crisis are seeing their investments pay off, said Gurlé during the Innovate conference. Those who have yet to start their digital transformation should consider the long-term benefits. COVID-19 will eventually run its course, but the new era of collaboration is here to stay. No one can really be sure what the post-COVID-19 new norm will look like, but the one thing that’s certain is that video, meetings, messaging and chat will be part of it.

I started off the post stating that Symphony is for financial services, but in actuality, any company that needs the highest level of security, such as health care, legal or similar businesses, should take a look at Symphony, particularly those that want to extend collaboration outside the company. 

Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.