When Ben Chrnelich tells us that the banking sector’s recent unrest is the third period of disruption that he’s “cycled through” during his finance career, we can’t help but wonder about the other two.
Of course, they are hardly a secret. As did that of many of his CFO peers, Chrnelich’s early career appears to have weathered no shortage of economic hijinks, thanks to the dotcom bubble (2002) and Wall Street’s subprime mortgage crisis (2008).
“The opportunity to be sort of at the epicenter of these events really allowed me to form my risk assessment as a CFO and be able to better assess where we are on any given business cycle,” comments Chrnelich, who was working for Lehman Brothers when the investment house collapsed in 2008.Read More
Unlike many of his Lehman colleagues, Chrnelich was able to find a silver lining in Wall Street’s economic turmoil—in his case, this took the form of employment as CFO of a technology business created by NYSE to serve Wall Street clients.
Known as NYSE Technologies, the business was established to target revenue opportunities for a number of software technologies that NYSE had developed in-house, as well as a number that had been acquired by NYSE.
“For me, it was an opportunity to transition into a CFO role with a company that had lots of capital already invested and the support of NYSE,” recalls Chrnelich, who served as CFO of the company for roughly 6 years.
In February of 2020, Chrnelich was named CFO of Symphony, which offers secure messaging and other collaboration tools for bankers and those who work with them. Three years and a number of acquisitions later, Symphony has powered up its AI strategy as it pursues its goal of providing more actionable insights to portfolio managers.
Reports Chrnelich: “We know specifically what they need, and we’re getting more face time and consideration by buyers than ever before.” –Jack Sweeney
Made Possible By
CFOTL: Tell us about Symphony … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Chrnelich: Symphony is a collaboration platform that can connect participants across capital markets in a secure and encrypted environment in any of a number of channels of communication—video, Zoom, Teams, chat, one-toone conversations, group rooms, file sharing, and so on. We have about 600,000 users on Symphony, across all of the investment banks, institutional money management firms, exchanges, market infrastructure platforms—all of the people who are part of the capital markets.Read More
Many of the people in the broader financial services community use Symphony as their communication and collaboration platform. If you’re a trader at Goldman Sachs and you want to talk to your counterpart on the leveraged finance desk at Barclays, you can use Symphony to communicate directly with them in a secure, verified-identity, and encrypted manner. It’s just your firm and their firm.
In comparison to the trading pits of many years ago, where everyone was together, or to your email or some other kind of low-latency communication mechanism, Symphony has allowed people to communicate instantaneously but in a secure and compliant environment that regulators and internal compliance functions recognize as the proper way to communicate and record everything from an archival standpoint.
The company was started in 2014 by a group of the Wall Street technologists and investors who came together and decided that the capital markets needed their own communication platform. People were using AOL, Yahoo, and other instant messaging services, and I think that everyone realized that relying on this nonregulated, nonstructured, noncompliant technology was not a good way to go about communications in a trading environment.
Over the past several years, we’ve grown through a number of acquisitions. The intent of Symphony is to continue to build out our front-office collaboration stack so that if you’re anyone who’s involved in capital markets, you have an easy way to communicate with your community—which could be the 10 people with whom you work every day, the thousands and thousands of people to whom you’re publishing your research, or the counterparties with whom you want to exchange trade information. It could also be just for trading data as part of your daily process. You can usually accomplish all of this over Symphony, where there are also content and applications on the same platform.
Symphony | www.symphony.com | New York, NY