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Anonymous insiders love to gossip

Published in Automated Trader Magazine Issue 34 Q3 2014

Has there ever been a story with more anonymous sources than the recent leaks about Goldman's bid to oust Instant Bloomberg?

Anonymous insiders love to gossip

In case you haven't heard, Goldman Sachs is planning a messaging revolution. And the way that's fermenting has got all the juicy bits you'd expect of a story ripe for great gossip.

First of all, it started out with a clever code name that sounds serious at first but gets funnier the more you think about it. That would be "Project Babel", which was later referred to as "Babble" (see what happened there?). This, according to "people familiar with the project" cited by the FT.

Part of Project Babble is to buy Perzo - the private messaging start-up in question - and Reuters reported that no fewer than JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, BlackRock and the hedge fund Maverick Capital are interested, according to "two sources briefed on the matter who declined to comment publicly".

The New York Post reported the secret project is called Symphony, and that Bloomberg's data sifting is the biggest reason for it despite early speculation that it's actually the $20,000+ annual subscription price for the terminal (though it should be noted that Perzo is open source).

Still, according to a "source familiar with Goldman's initiative", the bank is upset that Bloomberg can scrape chats and e-mails to find and compile the prices of bonds, currencies, commodities or other OTC assets that aren't traded on an exchange.

The initial public squabble between Goldman and Bloomberg had a very different starting point however. Bloomberg journalists were digging up leads by watching traders' login information. It caused quite a stir and resulted in apologies as well as changes to the financial information giant's practices.

Now, it's the digital data gatherers that are in Goldman's sights. After all, there's no reason banks couldn't create a rival and sift through their own data as long as it meets regulatory standards. But if they build it, will anyone come?

In two different articles, "a source" compared Bloomberg to Blackberry, which also had a dominant messaging service, BBM. We know what's happened since. On the other hand, "several traders" told The Wire they would be reluctant to move away from the existing BBG chat platform.

Based on Peek Ahead's own clandestine conversations in dark parking lots with anonymous sources (aka after conference drinks), opinions about whether Goldman's top secret plan will deliver seems to produce shrugged shoulders in reply. Also, there appears to be a measure of impatience waiting for some substantial result.

This could well happen sooner than later as actual names start to get attached to plans. Not to mention competitors such as UK tech firm Markit reminding the industry it's also in the game.

Peek Ahead's interested to see what comes out of all the chatter. We welcome all sources - anonymous or otherwise.