In late-2012, Goldman Sachs traders started to notice something unusual. News was sometimes breaking on social media faster than it was breaking on sophisticated information terminals that cost the bank millions of dollars each year.
The realization set in motion a series of events that would lead Goldman to team up with 13 other financial firms and invest in a new communications platform called Symphony. But before it was called Symphony, it had a lot of other names. What follows is the story of how Symphony got its name, as told to Unstructured Finance by people involved with the project.
A group of engineers at Goldman called “strats,” who work closely with the trading division on technology issues, set about finding a way to get relevant social media content in front of traders in real-time. They launched an internal platform called LiveCurrent in 2013 that combined elements of messaging, social media, research and other information in one central place. Because it was developed internally, the platform could be used by all employees across front, middle and back-office functions without significant additional cost. That made communicating about active trades much quicker and easier for all the staff involved.
As Goldman’s trading desk was grappling with this issue internally, its principal strategic investments team began picking up on the same theme of fragmented communication across Wall Street. That group, co-headed by Darren Cohen, makes investments with the bank’s own capital in the financial-services industry. It began looking for startups that had a solution to the problem. Cohen’s team code-named the project ”Babel” because they saw their task as simplifying a wide-ranging set of communications systems that were speaking in different tongues.