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Former HSBC and Credit Suisse in-house veteran Adam Harper launched Ashbury at the start of 2020, not necessarily ideal timing given the impending pandemic. By summer, however, the market had recovered and the Hong Kong firm’s focus on integrating communications strategy and content creation for financial sector clients was starting to reap dividends. Growth has continued since then, thanks to an in-house focus across banks, insurers, asset managers, industry associations and fintechs
Ashbury has already reached US$600k in fee income, with 10 retainer relationships and five permanent staff. Key clients include Flourish Ventures, Modular Asset Management, Pan Asia Securities Lending Association, Ping An Insurance and Alta Real Estate Capital.
Harper is supported by former in-house executives Noel Cheung, Jeremy Hughes and Joanne Chung. The firm’s culture reflects its belief that the distinction between public relations strategy and content creation makes little sense, giving it an edge over bigger, siloed, agencies. Ashbury has also developed a network of independent partners around the world, and benefits from a collaborative culture that is both curious and tenacious.
The firm’s executives all bring considerable financial sector experience, with Harper himself serving as a respected commentator on such areas as the future of finance, ESG and technology. Campaign highlights include media positioning, often involving a strong ESG angle, for Modular, PASLA, Flourish Ventures and Alta Capital.
— Arun Sudhaman
After more than a decade in agency and in-house roles, Dominque Backhouse launched Companion Communications in 2019 as an agency built to connect lifestyle brands to affluent customers in Asia, including Greater China. Companion is staffed completely by senior-lever leaders (there are no junior staffers), all of whom have experience in not only PR but other disciplines, too. In turn, Companion serves clients by leveraging expertise in regional brand strategy and positioning, as well as PR, media relations, content creation and social. Companion’s focus areas include the travel, hospitality, food & beverage, sustainable and alternative protein industries.
Companion Communications has offices in Hong Kong and Singapore.
After nearly two years in business, Companion has offices in Hong Kong and Singapore and a staff of nine — seven in PR, two in social media and one digital and graphic design expert. And, given its tactic of employing only senior level employees, Companion doesn’t have its sights set on growing much bigger. The firm’s client roster hovers around 10, which today includes new partners Maximal Concepts, The Arcane Collective and Hongkong Land. Global Food Partners, Basehall and Mott 32 International are also on the list. Shifting its focus away from travel and hospitality was key to Companion’s 2020 successes, given the impact of Covid-19. Today, Companion focuses on supporting businesses in the growing food & beverage and restaurant industries.
Internally, Companion is focused on elevating working mothers, by finding ways to get them back into the workforce in ways that work for them and their families. Eighty percent of Companion’s employees had a child in the last three years, reflected in the company offering flexible hours and remote work even before the pandemic. Companion aspires to be a leader in the PR industry in supporting women with young children. In addition to Backhouse (who worked for COMO Hotels and Resorts before launching Companion), the firm’s leadership includes Hong Kong-based Alex Berry, who leads F&B projects, and Singapore office leader Caroline Pitt, who joined from Vim & Vigour.
Companion has grown and maintained its clients by adhering to its commitment to operate like the small boutique agency that it is, offering the personal, hands-on support not always available from large firms. Companion also is garnering traction by serving clients in burgeoning niche industries — sustainability and alternative protein most notably. Despite Covid, Companion supported business launches in 2020. Hallmark work includes campaigns opening The Aubrey at Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental; Karana, a plant-based meat alternative; and Basehall, Hong Kong’s new food hall.
— Diana Marszalek
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