Wickr Challenges Bloomberg’s Domination of Wall Street Messaging - MoneyBeat - WSJ

Silicon Valley is gunning for Bloomberg LP’s dominance on messaging in the financial world.

One of the more innovative and perhaps eccentric entrants into the race is Wickr Inc., a San Francisco-based firm that initially planned to focus on growing its ultra-secure, self-destructing messaging service among everyday consumers.

The service is similar to Snapchat, but uses more advanced encryption.

During conversations with banks, exchanges and hedge funds, Wickr’s executives realized that there is arguably greatest demand for secure communications in the financial world than among consumers.

“Financial services was originally part of my three year plan for expansion and it just got accelerated to immediately,” said Nico Sell, the CEO of Wickr. “The entire industry is feeling the pain. The threat [from computer hackers] has reached a new level.”

Wickr declined to name which banks it was working with on messaging systems.

Ms. Sell is a major proponent of information security, going so far as refusing to be photographed or recorded without sunglasses to reduce her digital footprint and avoid identity theft. A long-time security expert and organizer of Defcon, the annual hacker convention, Ms. Sell does not maintain a Facebook account or other social-media accounts to protect her identity.

Wickr is gaining traction. It raised $30 million in June from a group of investors that included CME Group, the futures exchange operator based in Chicago. Other investors include Jim Breyer, one of the first backers of Facebook, and Richard Clarke, a former adviser to the White House on terrorism and cyber-security.

Ms. Sell said the Wickr system was at its core a highly secure protocol for exchanging information, whether the data is financial transactions, chat messages or other types.

The self-destructing feature used in the Wickr app for phones could also be used in the financial world, except with a much longer fuse. Messages or data could be programmed to delete itself after a number of years so the firm wouldn’t have to manually remove it from data centers. That would save the firm costs and also reduce the risk of huge amounts of data being accessed by hackers.

“We keep tons of data around and that becomes hazardous waste,” she said.

Markit Ltd., a financial data firm that operates a chat network that lets members send messages to each other regardless of the technology they use, is in discussions with Wickr about using its encryption technology for an offering, too,according to a Markit spokesman.

Wickr’s encryption system was designed by Robert Statica, the firm’s co-founder and chief technology officer who teaches computer forensics and cyber security at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Other executives include Andy Caspersen, former chief security and privacy officer at Schwab.