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The 2022 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 2022 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, which return in person to Singapore on 13 October. Analysis of all Finalists and Winners can be accessed via the navigation menu or below:
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 is based in Hong Kong and has an office in Singapore.
Our 2021 Asia-Pacific New Agency of the Year, Ashbury topped $1 million in fee income last year, thanks to the doubling of the number of clients to 20. New clients include AAX, Asia Pacific Loan Market Association, Houlihan Lokey and Serendipity Capital. Episode Six, Flourish Ventures, Modular Asset Management, and Pan Asia Securities Lending Association have been client partners since 2020.
Harper is supported by former in-house executives Noel Cheung, Jeremy Hughes and Joanne Chung and former editor of IFR Asia, Steve Garton, all part of a team that expanded to 12 over the last year. Senior writers and editors, Jason Wincuinas and Kareem Jalal, joined in 2022. Ashbury’s staff is a balanced mix of people of genders and cultural backgrounds located in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and the UK. 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.
Over the past year, Ashbury’s services have extended beyond traditional PR and written content into visual design, video production, event programming and content, expert speaker services and, most recently, content distribution. This year, the firm is launching its own media brand, realise.asia, offering opinions and commentaries on Asia-Pacific financial markets and big trends like the metaverse and ESG. The year’s highlights include Ashbury’s campaign for Asia Pacific Loan Market Association, which aimed to increase the group’s voice and influence, and the media placement it secured for Episode Six.
— Diana Marszalek
The international consulting business of what was then Finsbury Glover Hering was formed at the beginning of 2021 by the merger of Finsbury (a UK-based financial consultancy that had absorbed the US business of Robinson Lerer), Washington public affairs consultancy Glover Park, and German corporate and financial powerhouse Hering Schuppener. (The merger also involved buying back much of the stake in the three companies held by WPP, which remains a majority partner.) In October, the firm acquired New York-based corporate and financial communications specialist Sard Verbinnen, deepening its credentials in the M&A arena and in crisis communications and becoming FGS Global.
Several of the agencies that merged to become FGS had operations in the Asia-Pacific region and there are now 90 people spread across offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Shenzhen and Tokyo, most of them relatively small but all staffed with seasoned professionals with significant experience in their respective markets.
The merger and subsequent acquisition make year-on-year growth difficult to track, but FGH reported fee income of $220 million to our global rankings last year and FGS will be at $394 million on this year’s list—enough to rank among the top 10 public relations agencies of the world. In Asia, revenue was up by 58% in 2021 and has been growing throughout 2022 so far. Mainstay clients include Alibaba Group; Ant Group; BioNTech (developer with Pfizer if a major Covid vaccine); BlackRock; China Renaissance; GoTo;
KKR; Permira; Syngenta Group; and Société Générale. New business came from Blackstone PWS; CITIC; FWD Group; Lenovo; Mitsubishi Chemical; Prenetics; Primavera Capital; PropertyGuru; Trip.com; and Volkswagen Group China among others.
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 were significant additions too, with Kirsten Molyneux as [artner and Sarah Crawshaw as managing director in Hong Kong; Jaime Ho as partner in Singaoire; Keiichi Hotta as managing director in Tokyo; and Xiaoni Chen and Daniel Lyons as managing directors in Beijing.
FGS is predictably involved in some of the big global issues of the day, working to protect the reputation of a global clothing retailer when it was targeted by China’s state media and social media activists and removed from e-commerce platforms, over past statements on forced labor in Xinjiang. It also handled a wide range of financial transactions, from supporting Monde Nissin’s landmark IPO on the Philippine Stock Exchange, which raised US$1 billion to become the largest PSE listing and largest F&B IPO in SE Asia, to advising global diagnostics and genetic testing company Prenetics, which provides COVID-19 testing, on its business combination with Artisan Acquisition, a SPAC founded by Hong Kong entrepreneur Adrian Cheng.
— Paul Holmes
Our 2020 Asia-Pacific corporate/ financial services agency of the year, Honner was created by Philippa Honner in 1997 to provide specialist communications services to Australia’s fast-growing investment and financial sector. This year the firm celebrates its 25th year as a market leader in our space, with 25 staff and a client list comprising some of Australia’s and the world’s leading financial brands. Around half of Honner’s clients are headquartered offshore, which Honner services with the help of three active global networks. The agency also runs a global exchange program for staff, sending mid-level consultants to experience agency life in London, New York, Toronto or Hong Kong.
Honner is based in Australia, but partners with PROI, Global Communication Partners and Global Fintech Network to serve clients across regions.
In its 25 years, Honner has cemented its position as one of Australia’s leading financial services firms and reinforced that in 2021. With an eye on being an AU$5 million company, it got very close in 2021, during which it registered AU$4.9 in fee income. That figure was an 11% lift over 2020, thanks to new business from Crypto.com, Nano, AUSIEX, B2B payments, Change Financial and Gordon Brothers. Honner’s impressive list of existing clients provide a solid foundation to grow from; National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, BetaShares; and AXA Investment Managers are part of Honner’s client roster.
Honner has embedded DEI into everything it does by taking concrete steps to create a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. Structured, competency-based recruitment practices ensure candidates are objectively assessed according to their skills and work experience and matched with corresponding positions. The firm has made promoting individuals with non-traditional genders a priority and tries to accommodate individuals whose circumstances require flexible work arrangements. In 2019, Honner joined a growing movement to tackle the lack of diversity in Australia’s substantial investment industry by providing pro-bono support to diversity initiative Future IM/Pact. The challenges of Covid, including a four-month lockdown in Sydney, created unprecedented challenges, which Honner met by upgrading technology, creating flexible work from home rules and invested in health and wellness benefits. Honner also formalized its leadership last year with founder and CEO Philippa Honner; general manager Susie Bell; and a newly hired COO Judith Bence.
In 2021, Honner substantially expanded three key areas of its business — content creation and delivery, formalizing a crypto practice and expanding reach into Hong Kong and Singapore. Hallmark efforts included working with Nano Digital Home Loans on launching as one of Australia’s first end-to-end digital home lenders through an integrated PR program. The agency’s support for Colonial First State, one of Australia’s largest pensions providers, included research into the pandemic’s effect on Australians’ retirement preparations, which enabled CFS to have a strong, consistent and authentic voice on retirement.
— Diana Marszalek
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