To Build App Stores for Bankers, a Startup Taps Wells Fargo Cash

(Bloomberg) -- A few years before Paul Walker began a stint as Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s co-head of technology, he realized his mobile phone worked smoother than many machines at the office.

It was around 2011, Walker recalled in an interview, and across trading desks young analysts were used to phones that turned emails into calendar entries, or connected restaurant reviews to maps. Yet many desktop apps hardly interacted. Wall Street needed similar interoperability for running its businesses.

“Catching up with that is an awful lot of work,” he said.

Walker, who left Goldman in 2016, is now a board member at OpenFin, a startup that on Thursday announced its largest fundraising round yet. It gathered $17 million from investors led by Wells Fargo & Co. Other participants include Barclays Plc and existing stakeholders Bain Capital Ventures, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Pivot Investment Partners.

For years, banks, asset managers, hedge funds and other industry players have run their operations using thousands of specialized desktop apps. Now, firms are turning to a bevy of startups such as OpenFin looking to help set standards and bridge gaps -- akin to the way mobile phones and tablets create ecosystems for software developers.

App Stores

OpenFin’s operating system already runs on about 200,000 desktops across more than 1,500 banks and investing firms. The new money is supposed to fund the enrollment of more customers and the expansion of other services, such as helping Wall Street firms open their own private app stores for employees and customers.

“Apple and Google’s mobile operating systems and app stores have enabled more than a million apps that have fundamentally changed how we live,” OpenFin Chief Executive Officer Mazy Dar said. The goal is to transform financial services, too.

The Series C round brings OpenFin’s total venture capital funding to $40 million. A spokesman declined to specify what valuation was used in the offering, saying only that it was higher than last time. The Series A round in 2015 valued the company at $23 million, according to data gathered by PitchBook, a market research firm.

OpenFin’s operations straddle New York and London. It aims to work with software from a wide variety of vendors to the financial services industry, such as Bloomberg LP, Refinitiv and Symphony. Bloomberg is the parent of Bloomberg News.

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