Symphony App Overview & Why WhatsApp & WeChat Interop Is Crucial
The Symphony app has long been viewed as the preference for financial institutions and businesses who need to keep their collaboration solutions on-premises.
While cloud software involves a third-party hosting the application on their servers, on-prem software involves the app developers owning the servers and resources.
In other words, cloud data security is in the hands of a third party whereas on-premises data security is controlled by the application’s owners.
Symphony hosts its platform on Google Cloud and AWS services while letting customers secure their data with their own on-premises hardware security module (HSM) keys.
According to Symphony’s website, it’s “the only cloud-based collaboration provider to combine true end-to-end encryption, on-premises key ownership, and enterprise-class admin control into one extensible platform.”
What is Symphony collaboration software?
Symphony Communication Services is a suite of collaboration solutions primarily aimed at the finance market.
Beginning as a simple messaging platform under David Gurlé, it evolved to one of the most secure and compliant markets infrastructure and technology platforms for financial service workflows and communication needs.
This infrastructure includes conventional voice, chat, video conferencing, screen sharing, and bots, automations and integration capabilities.
Symphony also enables interoperability in the financial communications space.
Integrating enterprise tools like Salesforce and ServiceNow or messaging platforms like WhatsApp and WeChat means that billions of users in Asia and around the world can make use of this powerful tool for secure and compliant collaboration with both internal and external teams.
Brief history of Symphony Communications
David Gurlé began the company as Perzo in late 2012 before being acquired by Goldman Sachs and receiving funding from fourteen other banks in 2014.
This includes some of the most important global financial names like BlackRock, Citi, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan, etc.
Brad Levy, taking over from Gurlé, has made it clear that Symphony is looking to provide solutions to every collaboration need with the company’s recent acquisitions: Cloud9 Technologies and StreetLinx.
The next step in the company’s history will be revealed at the Symphony Innovative London 2022.
Is Symphony messaging free?
Symphony offers three paid pricing plans to its customers and has a free plan.
It’s called “Essential” and allows you to run the software in a web browser or mobile app only. But it does come with all the app features you get in a paid plan.
Essential is only suitable for individuals as it doesn’t include backend compliance or administrative features that are crucial for small financial firms or larger enterprises.
How much does Symphony cost?
The pricing plans best suited for larger businesses are the Business and Enterprise services.
- Business: suitable for small businesses and costs $20 per month, but users are required to pay a yearly subscription of $240.
- Enterprise: suitable for large institutions. The price ranges depending on what you need in terms of high-touch implementation and support.
Both plans enable access to the platform via web browser, mobile app, and desktop app.
How do I use Symphony secure messaging?
As a team collaboration platform, Symphony makes use of several features in its front and backend to facilitate secure internal and external communication and workflow management for organizations of all sizes.
At the 2020 Symphony Innovate conference, the company introduced Symphony 2.0, an upgrade from Symphony 1.5.
It features a new layout and components like Workspaces and the Bot Developer Kit 2.0.
Symphony 1.5 users can now switch their application layout to Symphony 2.0.
Let’s take a look at the layout and features of both Symphony 1.5 and Symphony 2.0.
Symphony has a dynamic layout with lots of useful functionality.
The left navigation panel gives you quick access to your profile, chats, signals, applications, bookmarks, and a quick search filter for this panel.
It’s a different interface on Symphony 2.0, but the same components are present.
You can create folders to arrange your chats. Add chats to these folders by clicking on the hamburger menu icon (⋮) and then selecting the desired folder.
Unread messages are signified with a red marker on the chat room or folder where it’s located in. One-to-one messages and external chats are signified with an orange marker.
There’s a blue plus icon at the top right-hand corner of this panel. Clicking it will allow you to create new chat rooms, wall posts, signals, and a message blast to multiple chats.
Symphony chat features
Chat rooms have incredible functionality and features like search. . .
. . .meanwhile, real-time voice calls, video conferencing, and screen sharing can be initiated with the phone icon. . .
You can also keep chats open with the pin icon, and you can keep multiple chat rooms open at once with this.
When multiple chats are open, you can prevent sending messages to the wrong room by clicking the “disable input” icon.
Move chats to another screen with the pop-out functionality by clicking this icon.
Click the information icon (i) at the top right corner to access general chat room details including members and shared files history.
Clicking the chime icon will notify someone without you having to message them.
You can check out every single message as they come in across all chat rooms by clicking the “Inbox” icon at the top navigation bar.
You can also check out every mention across all rooms by clicking the “@mentions” icon.
How to join a Symphony chat room
There are three chat room types: private, public, and external chat rooms.
You can join an external chat room by accepting requests on the “Network” drop-down or by creating a room.
Creating a chat room is easy:
- Click the blue “+” icon and select “Create chat room” and select one of the three chat room types.
You can configure private and public rooms to either be read-only or allow members to send and copy messages as well as add other members in your company.
External chat rooms allow you to collaborate with one or more companies other than yours. Symphony also gives you control of external teams’ ability to copy messages in your external chat rooms.
- After selecting a chat room type, configuring your preferences, and choosing a name, click “Next” to create the room.
- Add colleagues and bots by typing in their name and clicking “Add”.
Symphony search function
Symphony uses a universal search feature. You can type in any keyword into the search bar at the top navigation bar.
Each keyword will produce quick search results. . .
. . .hitting “Enter” will give you results in four columns – messages, people, rooms, and wall posts.
You can get even more granular search results by adding a contact’s name to the keyword in the search bar. For the “messages” column, you can filter search results further by date.
On the “People” column you can also filter by adding a contact’s name, company, or address.
Signals and keywords
Signals and keywords differentiate Symphony as a business communication tool compared to collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack.
Signals make use of three types of tags: hashtags, cashtags, and mentions.
On Symphony 1.5, you can create a signal using the top + icon or by clicking “create signal” when you open an already curated list by clicking on a tag.
Name your signal and fill in the tags you want. Then you can decide if you want this signal to match when all or some of the tags and users are mentioned.
On Symphony 2.0, you can follow tags and keep track of keywords instead of creating signals.
First, click the explore button in the navigation bar.
Here you can view all your tags and keywords where they were used and in chronological order.
Click the “Manage” column, then type in keywords that you want to track, or tags that you want to follow.
Besides being useful for keeping track of important financial information, signals, tags, and keywords will also help tackle notification fatigue.
Symphony apps and bots
Symphony integrations take the platform from being just a communication app to the infrastructure it is today. These apps and bots help automate and liquefy workflows and take collaboration to another level.
Access apps and bots by clicking on the “Market” icon on the app.
You can also build your own bot and integrate your favorite third-party apps in seconds with developer resources like the Bot Developer Kit 2.0.
Workspaces is a feature unique to Symphony 2.0. You can monitor multiple chats and applications by adding them to a tab. This function replaces the “pin” feature in Symphony 1.5.
Add chats to workspaces by dragging and dropping them. . .
. . .or by clicking the hamburger menu icon and selecting “add to current tab”.
You can have different grid layouts with Workspaces.
Who uses Symphony?
Symphony serves 1000+ institutions with over half a million users. These institutions include financial services firms, technology companies, global venture capital funds, insurance companies, and aviation companies.
Basically, companies that have sensitive data that they want to protect, and a diverse clientele they want to connect.
It has been seen by many as a cheaper and more secure replacement for the $24,000/year Bloomberg terminals. Especially since the privacy breach scandal where Bloomberg journalists spied on Goldman Sachs bankers using said terminals.
So it’s no wonder that Symphony’s first and biggest investor-customers were top financial firms led by Goldman Sachs.
Let’s take an in-depth look into why these companies use Symphony.
Symphony’s “true” end-to-end encryption
To understand how the app achieves true end-to-end encryption, we need to understand the way Symphony’s creator, David Gurlé, defines security.
Speaking on the Wharton Fintech Podcast to Gilgamesh Ventures general partner, Miguel Armaza, Gurlé explains Symphony’s security using a brilliant analogy.
He describes the ridiculousness of decryption keys in the digital world by comparing them with actual home keys in the real world. Evidenced by the fact that it is illegal for the party renting a home to you to access your properties with your key.
This contrasts with the fact that companies that build products today hold the customer’s encryption keys instead of the customer.
Gurlé says, “Well, I found it very odd that what we have in our analog world doesn’t exist in our digital environment.”
He called it a “fundamentally wrong system”, not just because you can’t tell when a company is snooping around your data, but also because you can’t control who can manage your data besides yourself. Remember, you do not own the keys to your own digital assets.
This is why Symphony gives users the ability to manage their encryption keys with on-premises HSM keys.
This way, the encryption keys and customer data are kept in separate locations. Therefore, even if any data is intercepted at any point from initiation to destination, it cannot be decrypted without the keys.
Interoperability through Symphony’s federation
Besides disruptive security protocols (and perhaps because of it), Symphony is a federated messenger that brings businesses to where their clients are for easy and compliant communication.
The ever-growing reach of the platform coupled with bots that liquefy workflows also makes Symphony match with the right customers.
The ability to build integrations or to integrate with other apps from Symphony’s “Market” makes the platform an important player in the interoperability space.
Some market automations available in this infrastructure can be achieved using app integrations like Salesforce and Jira.
In terms of communication, Symphony integrates with three of the biggest communication tools in our history:
More importantly, you can enjoy chatting with clients and team members on these platforms while being compliant with regulatory requirements.
In 2019, Deutsche Bank enabled Symphony Connect for its employees to communicate with clients in WeChat. By the time the pandemic hit, the importance of interoperability was clear as day and so Deutsche Bank added WhatsApp to its client communication channel.
In no time, banks like HSBC Global Private Banking followed suit, connecting to their WeChat and WhatsApp clients.
Symphony interoperability with WhatsApp
Message interoperability is a crucial requirement for any business with multiple messaging apps.
WhatsApp is the most popular mobile messaging app with two billion monthly active users. Naturally, firms have a lot of clients on the platform that they need to communicate with.
With Symphony, these firms can connect with clients on WhatsApp. But more than that, communication can occur in a secure and compliant manner.
Symphony interoperability with WeChat
Besides connecting clients from the two most used messengers – SMS and WhatsApp – Symphony also allows access to the fifth most popular messenger platform, WeChat (known as “Weixin” in mainland China).
WeChat has a ubiquitous presence in China as the go-to messenger app. So it is important if businesses want to connect to over a billion people present on the platform.
You can get on-boarded quickly with a QR code.
Just like all communication on Symphony, collaboration on WeChat is compliance checked in line with regulatory requirements, and easy to use even on the go.
Symphony is leading the way for collaboration apps that have requirements for both on-premises and end-to-end encryption.
And its unique interoperability with WeChat makes it an obvious choice for businesses with clients in China.
It’s easy to see why huge financial institutions like HSBC and Deutsche Bank choose Symphony.