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The international consulting business of Finsbury Glover Hering was formed at the beginning of 2021 by the merger of Finsbury (a UK-based financial consultancy that had also 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.
FGH has an extensive EMEA network that includes offices in Germany (Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich), Belgium (Brussels), France (Paris), Switzerland (Zurich), United Kingdom (Dublin, London), UAE (Abu Dhabi, Dubai), Saudi Arabia (Riyadh), China (Shanghai, Beijing), Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan (Tokyo) as well as several partner agencies in other key markets and its international offices in the US and Asia.
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 will be at $394 million on this year’s list—likely enough to rank among the top 10 public relations agencies of the world. The Sard Verbinnen deal accounts for some but by no means all of that growth—about $60 million of the growth is organic—as existing clients have taken advantage of the firm’s expanded capabilities and new clients have flocked to a genuinely global corporate and public affairs offer. Among the firm’s major retainer clients are names like Adobe, Audi, Covid vaccine developer BioNTech, CVS Health, Softbank, Tegna, Visa, and Zoom Video Communications.
One of FGH/SVC's greatest strengths is an ownership structure that provides all of the firm’s employees with a path to ownership: currently more than 400 of the firm’s more than 1,000 employees around the world are owners—almost certainly the largest number of employee owners in the business. That means FGH has a more collaborative culture than many of its direct competitors, where an eat-what-you-kill mentality often lingers. The EMEA leadership team includes CEO Alex Geiser, who previously led Hering Schuppener; global co-chairman Roland Rudd; Faeth Birch, CEO for the UK and international; Brigitte von Haacke, CEO Europe; and Tina Mentner, chairwoman of Europe.
FHG/SVC is predictably involved in some of the big global issues of the day, working with Germany’s BioNTech on the Covid vaccine, and helping a number of clients decide whether and how to withdraw from Russia in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. But it has also been busy in the M&A arena, ranking number one globally on mergermarket’s database of financial transaction advisors, handling 321 transactions with a combined value of approximately $560 billion. Highlights included Axel Springer’s acquisition of Politico; Just Eat’s acquisition of Grubhub; and IPOs for Bumble, Didi Chuxing, and Dr Martens.
— Paul Holmes
For many, corporate and financial communications is considered the drier side of the business, driven by facts and figures and corporate-speak — minus the creative flair. But Kirchhoff, one of German-speaking Europe’s leading financial and corporate communications agencies, refutes that idea; that’s because members of the agency’s 55-person team — a well-mixed crowd including lawyers, analysts, project managers, journalists, designers and digital gurus — enjoy financials more than most.
Kirchhoff is based in Germany and does business across Austria, Switzerland and Bulgaria as well.
Kirchhoff has emerged as a regional leader in handling communications surrounding IPOs, annual reports, CSR and investor relations, fueling the agency’s nearly 9% rise to €6.2 million in 2021. With a commitment to “absolute precision” (although humor is apparently encouraged), Kirchhoff’s 55-person team handles clients including Signa Group (Austria), Bullmarket (Bulgaria), Compleo and Vantage Towers (both Germany) and fox e mobility (Switzerland). Many of Kirchhoff’s clients have been partners for a decade-plus, a testament to the firm’s ability to grow and adapt with them. The agency also doubled down on expanding its market position as an ESG consultant, which included producing studies picked up by business press. In addition, Kirchhoff expanded its ESG staff to 10, building out a team in anticipation of more work in the field related to the European Union’s Green Deal.
Since going remote, Kirchhoff has intensified its effort to sustain a tight-knit team, made up of individuals with diverse expertise, knowledge bases and abilities. That included the likes of virtual cooking classes or coffees, as well as weekly video of chairman Klaus Kirchhoff
and other measures promote team spirit and motivation. The firm partnered with a research and development institute on developing software tailored to Kirchhoff that allows employees to perform tasks more efficiently and save time. Fifty percent of employees have been with the company for five or more years. IPO and IR expert Jens Hecht joined the agency as a Partner and board member and Philipp Killius joined as head of ESG.
In his 25-plus years in business, Klaus Kirchhoff has established himself as an expert on IPO and ESG. He spoke at 12 workshops and conferences hosted by Deutsche Börse, banks and other organizations, reaching more than 1,000 business leaders. The agency also produced ESG-related studies, which got a robust response from the media.
— Diana Marszalek
It was a landmark year for Lansons, which transitioned from financial communications stalwart to one of the industry’s agencies to watch, as co-founders Tony Langham and Clare Parsons stepped up their transformation and succession planning in the first major senior shake-up at Lansons since its formation in 1989. The duo recruited Gordon Tempest-Hay, former CEO of Blue Rubicon and Teneo, as CEO, as Langham moved from chief executive to chair and Parsons from executive chair to non-executive director. The co-founders of the 100% employee-owned business also reduced their combined stake in the business from 68% to 24%, with all other partners (33 in total) offered an increased holding. Lansons remains one of the industry’s leading advisers on complex reputational issues where a wide mix of capabilities and societal awareness is required. In its financial services heartland, it is appointed to handle everything from IPOs, change management work and ESG crises, to brand launches and straightforward money-related PR. In 2021 the agency expanded beyond positioning and purpose to bring financial brands to life with visual and creative work.
Lansons is based in London and New York; it expanded to the US in 2019 with the acquisition of Intermarket Communications, now rebranded as Lansons.
During 2021, Lansons grew global fees by 22% to $17.4 million, with staff numbers remaining level at just under 100 people. New clients including Amigo Loans, Atom Bank, Bolt, Freetrade, Gemini, M&S Bank, Metinvest, Monument Bank, SUSE and Trusted Housesitters joined a roster including the governments of the Cayman Islands and the Isle of Man, Invesco, Legal &General, Luton Airport Openreach, PropertyMark, St. James’s Place, Tech Nation and The Royal Mint.
Despite all the structural changes to the business, Lansons continued to hold true to its values – including ‘responsible inclusive capitalism’ – strengthening its reputation as an ESG-focused agency with a low gender pay gap, diversity commitments and 13 years of being a carbon-neutral business. The agency is a 100% employee-owned business and has been named as one of the UK’s Top 60 SME ‘Best Places to Work’ in any sector for 18 years running by the Great Places to Work Institute. Lansons is known for its support for the arts, including an award-winning partnership with fringe theatre charity High Tide. The whole team received pay rises of between 10% and 20% in 2021, and the agency widened the bonus pool to 50% of profits, worth more than £1.2 million. Lansons’ diversity commitments covering language, recruitment, culture, people, footprint, voice, community and suppliers. Thea team is 63% women, the board is 57% women, and 61% of Lansons owners are women. The agency voluntarily publishes its gender pay gap (5%) along with ethnicity pay gap data. A voluntary diversity group challenges the agency and is responsible for a diversity awareness and engagement programme including conscious inclusion training. In one year, Lansons increased the proportion of people of colour in its business from 7% to 12%, making progress towards its target of 15% by 2023; 30% of its junior recruits in 2021 were people of colour. Senior hires included ESG, sustainability, brand strategy and multi-channel marketing specialist Sam Sharpe, and Geoff Duggan joining from Pagefield as a board director to drive growth in fintech.
Standout work over the year included supporting the Openreach 2025 Digital Upgrade campaign, promoting Atom Bank’s adoption of a four-day working week with no reduction in salary; establishing The Royal Mint as a leader in sustainable precious metals and a future leader in the circular economy in the run-up to COP26, and partnering with creative agency We Do Co to produce a new national brand for the Cayman Islands, as well as a new brand identity for fintech Yolt. Thought leadership included ‘Coping with COP’, a smorgasbord of 30-second snippets covering everything from what Mr Micawber can teach us about climate change to a history of COPs in emojis. Lansons also partnered with Opinium Research to issue weekly insight bulletins on the latest in politics using polling data to reflect the views of the British public. Lansons’ Diversity Group hosted events with guest speakers such as the David Lammy MP on his experience of being a Black politician in Westminster. Popular breakfast briefings Lansons Media Live returned in 2021, interviewing broadcasters, editors, journalists and bloggers.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Technically, SEC Newgate is less than two years old, dating to September 2019 when Italian public affairs firm SEC merged with holding company Porta, giving rise to the create the sprawling global communications business it is today. But SEC’s roots stretch back to its founding in Italy 30 years ago, while Newgate itself has been around for more than a decade. And more moves have followed since, as part of a three year plan to transform the agency in line with increasing expansion and integrated. These include SEC Newgate’s decision to go private this year, backed by €49m investment from private equity firm Three Hills Capital Partners, and its launch in the Middle East via the acquisition of a majority stake in Twister Communications Middle East. This year, furthermore, SEC Newgate bought a significant stake in US public affairs powerhouse Global Strategy Group. All of which adds up to a firm with considerable depth across corporate, public affairs, financial and crisis — bolstered by new offerings in ESG and AI.
SEC Newgate is based in Milan but its 650+ staffers operate from 38 offices across five continents. There are seven offices in Italy, along with eight in the UK, a sizeable Brussels operation, along with a presence in France and Germany and Spain. Dubai arrived via the Twister deal, while SEC established a Poland hub last year to oversee its CEE expansion.
SEC Newgate reported $106m in fee income in 2021, marking impressive double-digit growth. New business came from Plugo, Alisdeo, Gatwick, HSBC Life Insurance, Arqit, European Collectivity of Alsace, Pacific Asset Management, Ciner Glass and IOGP Europe. They join an existing roster that features HSBC Asset Management, Countryside Management, BNY Mellon, CEFIC, Terna, Fondaziona E.A. Fiera International of Milan, and Federated Hermes International.
CEO Fiorenzo Tagliabue is supported by deputy CEOs Tom Parker and Emma Kane, while Paola Ambrosino and Eric Giuily play key roles in Italy and Trance, respectively. Like many firms, there has been a major rethink of working practices as the result of the pandemic, resulting in improved collaboration and creativity. In Italy, the firm is certified as a ‘Benefit’ company, while its UK arm is currently pursuing B-corp status. Many offices have implemented DEI policies, backed by anonymous research to gauge staff feedback. With less than 10% of its workforce hailing from ethnic minority backgrounds, SEC Newgate has pledged to make DEI a group priority in 2022.
SEC Newgate launched its major thought leadership initiative last year with a new ESG Monitor that included global research of consumer attitudes. A new AI product, meanwhile, developed in conjunction with academics from international universities, specialises in semantic analysis and reputation measurement. Campaign highlights included the Green Horizon Summit for the Green Finance Institute, the Seraphim Space Investment Trust IPO in London, and impressive work to support Discovery TVN against Poland’s hostile ruling party.
— Arun Sudhaman
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