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The 2021 Asia-Pacific PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 125 submissions and meetings with the best PR firms across the region.
Consultancy of the Year winners are announced and honoured at the 2021 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, which takes place virtually on 15 September. Analysis of all Finalists and Winners can be accessed via the navigation menu or below:
The international consulting business of Finsbury Glover Hering was formed at the beginning of 2021 by the merger of Finsbury (the UK-based financial consultancy that had absorbed the US business of Robinson Lerer), Washington public affairs consultancy Glover Park, and German corporate and financial specialist Hering Schuppener. The Asian business has been expanding rapidly, albeit from a fairly small base, with its focus primarily on mergers and acquisition support and other high-stakes financial situations.
The merged firm has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo, most of them relatively small but all staffed with seasoned professionals with significant experience in their respective markets.
The Asia-Pacific region accounts for a little less than $7 million of the firm’s $220 million in global revenues, which were roughly flat in 2020, a year when the challenge of merging three agencies was compounded by the Covid crisis. The firm works for a roster of blue-chip brands including AlixPartners, BlackRock, CPPIB, KKR, Prada Group, STH (the official hospitality provider for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games), The Executive Centre, TeamViewer, Toyota and Visa and added numerous new clients last year including BioNTech, Carlyle, CATL, CITIC Limited, GoTo (formed through Gojek-Tokopedia merger), Horizon Robotics, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Permira, Refire Technology, Société Générale, Syngenta, Techtronic Industries and Volvo Cars. 2020 was Finsbury’s most successful year in the region, with a notable increase in gross profit.
The merger saw Finsbury founder Roland Rudd and GPG founder Carter Eskew named as co-chairs, with Alexander Geiser, managing partner at Hering Schuppener, serving as chief executive officer. Faeth Birch, previously a managing partner in Finsbury’s London office, was named regional CEO for the United Kingdom, Middle East and Asia, while Ben Richardson has led Asia since 2016. There have also been key additions including Tokyo-based partners and office leads Deborah Hayden and Minako Hattori; Paul Yang, head of China; Hong Kong veteran Richard Barton; and former Brunswick partner Ginny Wilmerding as a partner in Hong Kong. Finsbury launched a formal mentoring program and also stepped up its mental health and social support in response to the challenges of Covid-19.
As befits a firm that specializes in advising CEOs on mission-critical issues, Finsbury Glover Hering generated an immense amount of thought leadership on both Covid-19 (issues ranged from the reputational risk of Covid-related litigation to employee communications challenges) and the rising Black Lives Matter movement globally and its implications for business. The firm ranked third among global M&A advisors according to industry publication mergermarket. In Asia it ranked seventh in terms of the volume of deals it worked (eighth in terms of the value of those deals), while in Japan, which is ranked separately, it was fourth in volume and fifth in value. SABRE-nominated campaigns included impressive work for The Body Shop and Asia Pacific Land in Japan.
— Paul Holmes
The strategic communications segment of FTI Consulting’s business is one of the leading players in the international corporate and financial space (and increasingly in public affairs). Its offer includes a solid core of crisis communications, capital markets communications and special situations work in mergers and acquisitions and bankruptcy and restructuring; and there has been growth in specialist areas such as litigation support. The parent company—the first management consultancy to acquire a top tier PR firm—also includes corporate finance and restructuring, economic consulting, and forensic and litigation service.
With its headquarters in New York, a substantial presence in London, and a formidable Brussels office, FTI is focused on both financial and political spheres of influence around the world. In the Asia-Pacific region, it has about 80 consultants spread across major markets.
FTI Consulting’s strategic communications segment saw revenues drop 5.9% during 2020 (it ended the year at $228 million, still enough to rank 14th on our list of the largest PR agencies in the world), largely due to a decline in pass-through revenues, and the impact of the Covid pandemic. However, the firm has gotten off to a strong start to 2021, with revenues up by close to 4% in the first quarter and close to 20% in the second, as corporate and financial business—and mergers and acquisitions activity in particular—bounces back.
Mark McCall took charge of the strategic communications segment in September 2017, and the years seen then have seen impressive growth and an investment in talent. Paul Downie, who played a pivotal role in building FTI Consulting to be one of the leading consultancies in Australia, serves as chairman of the Asia-Pacific region.
FTI’s highest visibility work is in the M&A arena, where globally it remains one of the premier advisors on major transactions. The mergermarket ranking of M&A advisors has FTI as the number six firm in terms of volume of assignments in 2020, and in terms of the value of deals handled. In Asia, the firm ranked third in terms of deal volume (and ninth by value of deals) while in Japan it is fifth in terms of the number of transactions in towkred last year.
Robyn Sefiani’s firm, after more than 20 years as a trendsetter on the corporate and financial communications scene, enjoys a stature in the Australian marketplace that is out of proportion to its relatively modest (20 person) size. The past few years have seen a successful expansion and diversification strategy, with Sefiani transforming itself from a relatively traditional corporate and financial communications specialist into something broader, more creative, and more modern—all without losing sight of the strategic thinking that has set the firm apart since it was founded by Sefiani upon her departure from Edelman.
Sefiani covers all of Australia from its headquarters in Sydney.But the firm has numerous international affiliates—it is the Australian partner of APCO, Grayling and Ruder Finn—providing global reach.
In a challenging year that mirrored the fortunes of the wider industry—a sharp decline at the onset of the Covid crisis followed by a steady build-back—Sefiani reported fee income of around AUD$4.4million. Corporate clients such as EY, law firm Allen & Overy, Expedia, CrowdStrike and L’Oreal and financial clients including Northern Trust, Rest Industry Super, Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation, and Australian Payments Network continued to use the firm for mission critical work, and there were new additions including 3M, Dell, Arcadis, MAX Solutions and Luno on the corporate front and Cyrus Capital, Hejaz Financial Services, East33, TCorp and OneVentures on the financial front.
One key to Sefiani’s sustained success is a genuinely values-based approach to the business, and that approach helped it through the tough times in 2020, as the firm drew on its longstanding leadership
team to hold steady. Robyn Sefiani is a veteran counselor to CEOs and other senior executives. Nicholas Owens, director, has been with Sefiani for 19 years and brings experience—earned at Hill+Knowlton Japan—in issues and crisis management, financial communications and public affairs. Julia Hoy, senior consultant, leads the sustainability practice, and Iain Waterman helms the firm’s work in the technology sector.
Adapting quickly to the new reality, Sefiani launched both a covid-specific crisis response offer and a new change management practice, establishing its thought leadership credentials in both spaces. Among highlights of the firm’s work, Cyrus Capital Partners hired Sefiani to manage communications around the sale of Virgin Australia, which had collapsed into administration; L’Oreal engaged the firm to promote and grow its Women in Science program, with a focus on women tackling climate change; and CrowdStrike turned to Sefiani to boost awareness, growth and credibility of its cloud-based cyber security technology in Australia, drawing on the firm’s relationships with the tech trades.
— Paul Holmes
It is now more than 25 years since Burson-Marsteller veteran Richard Tsang launched Strategic Public Relations Group in Hong Kong, and from its origins as a specialist in the Hong Kong financial market (advising on both financial transactions and companies in the financial services sector) it has expanded both geographically and in terms of the portfolio of services it offers. It now has broad corporate and financial capabilities, expertise in public affairs and consumer marketing, a healthy events business, and burgeoning digital and social media expertise. It is, in short, a full-service agency blending local market expertise with international standards of management and practice.
Headquartered in Hong Kong, the firm now has wholly-owned offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Taipei, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur; as well as an associated investor relations company in Sydney and a new joint venture with US financial services specialist Monteith & Co. It is a longtime active partner in PROI, giving it access to a premier network of international partners in key markets.
Last year was challenging in Asia and in the financial markets, so in that context the 11% decline in fee income that SPRG experienced is understandable and perhaps even impressive—even if it did drop the firm out of the top 100 in our ranking of global PR agencies. The firm maintains a premier client list that includes the likes of Asia Pulp & Paper, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, KFC, Lenovo, LG, Lui Che Woo Prize, and Merck. New additions in 2020 included AEON Credit Services, Atome, Blue Moon Group, China Automotive Technology and Research Centre, Evergrande Group, Kaishou Technology, MSD Pharma, Ping An Good Doctor, and SF REIT.
Founder Richard Tsang made a pledge at the outset of the crisis that there would be no layoffs, and instead elected to invest in new technology solutions, including new offerings for clients and new infrastructure to maintain the agency culture. The firm’s strong and stable leadership team remains in place, including Esther Chan, managing director of financial relations; Nancy Huang, general manager of the Taipei operation and founder of SPRG Healthcare; and Edwin Yeo, GM of SPRG Singapore.
While the firm continues to set records for the number of IPOs it handles in Hong Kong (and ranks 13th in Asia in terms of the value of M&A activity in handles), its work today is broader and more creative than most financial consultancies. For example, there’s CHFEA (Colours by Europe), a campaign to raise awareness and purchase intent of EU agricultural food and beverage products in China, highlighting the safety, quality and authenticity of those products. There’s also Enable Asia’s Enabling Festival, which focuses on mental health and dementia in particular. In the firm’s traditional wheelhouse, “Nothing Beats the Real Taste” was an IPO campaign that addressed investor concerns about weak growth among Chinese restaurant groups and helped Tai Hing Group Holdings Limited to a successful market debut.
— Paul Holmes
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