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The 2023 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 2023 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, taking place in Singapore on 27 September. 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. But Harper’s vision of integrating communications strategy and content creation for financial sector clients has paid off handsomely since then, supported by specialist expertise in sustainable finance and technology. The firm provides reputation strategy, media relations, content strategy, editorial, video, creative and event development for a client base that includes banks, asset managers, data and indices providers, professional services firms, industry associations and technology firms.
There are 16 staffers across offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, and remotely in London.
Ashbury’s revenue more than doubled to $2.2m in 2022, thanks in part to 30% expansion from its five largest clients, drawn from a roster that features the Asia-Pacific Loan Market Association, Credit Suisse, Episode Six, Flourish Ventures, Houlihan Lokey, HSBC, MSCI, PASLA and Serendipity Capital. There was also new business from Man Group, Digital Asset, Pentagreen and Metaco, as Ashbury benefited from its financial sector expertise and ability to blend ESG and sustainability counsel with topnotch editorial services.
Harper is supported by director of advisory Noel Cheung and director of content Steve Garton, while there were also new hires across all of the firm’s functions. As befits a small, entrepreneurial firm, there is plenty of attention paid to cultural cohesion and inclusion, supported by a formalised ‘people strategy’ that includes ongoing performance reviews and annual learning subsidies.
Ashbury’s Realise.Asia thought leadership platform is the most tangible representation of its intellectual capital, featuring high-level editorial content from the firm and its clients on key current situations. Harper is also a well-respected commentator on such issues as ESG and the Adani crisis.
— Diana Marszalek
After landing Regional Consultancy of the Year honours in 2021, FleishmanHillard continues to be one of the strongest network agencies in the region — although with the departure regional boss Lynn-Anne Davis earlier this year, after two decades at the helm, it has been a year of transition. The firm’s presence spans 19 owned offices in the region, and includes two additional brands (BlueCurrent and Vox), under the long-term leadership of regional president Lynne Anne Davis. Fleishman remains weighted towards Greater China and North Asia, but there has been eye-catching growth in Australia, the Philippines and India — underpinned by FleishmanHillard’s core strengths across B2B, consumer, public sector, healthcare and financial/professional services, along with significant capabilities in research/analytics, branding, creative, risk/crisis management and ESG.
Greater China (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong) and North Asia (Tokyo, Seoul) together account for around 400 people, while there are also significant operations in Australia, India (Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore) and Southeast Asia (Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore), giving the firm a team of about 500 in the region as a whole.
With a change in leadership and the lingering impact of the Covid pandemic, overall revenues were flat for Fleishman in Asia last year—although a recovery began in the third quarter and continued into the first half of 2023. Much of the decline was due to struggles in Japan, while operations in Thailand, India, Korea, Indonesia and Hong Kong all enjoyed robust growth. Investments in ESG, public affairs, and the employee communications focused “talent and transformation” offer are paying off, and the financial sector was particularly strong, with a client list that spans banks (Barclays, BNY Mellon, HSBC, ING amd more), asset managers (Allianz, AXA, Janus Henderson), private equity and VC firms, fin-tech (Visa, MasterCard, global payments), insurance companies (FWD, Prudential), government and professional organizations.
The big news this year was the departure of Davis, who has led FH over the past 22 years from a relatively minor player in APAC to a regional powerhouse. JJ Carter, global COO and president of the Americas, has been leading the region on an interim basis. Of the 500 people working for FleishmanHillard, about 100 work in the financial and professional services sector, under the leadership of Patrick Yu, senior partner. Fleishman’s employee experience focus includes a comprehensive new e-learning platform and numerous programs to improve leadership, skills and wellness, while there has also been a notable improvement in FleishmanHillard’s efforts to drive stronger DE&I policy and actions—a strategic priority for the firm globally.
The financial sector offer spans executive communications and leadership positioning, employee and financial communications, CSR, crisis, and global media relations, and the firm’s thought leadership activities is built around a series of reports on “The Future of Asset Management” focused on Asia generally and China in particular as well as a shareholder activism webinar led by Yvonne Park, president of FH Korea, and Akihiro Nojiro, who leads FH public affairs brand Vox in Japan. Highlights of the work over the past 12 months include a media relations and thought leadership effort for Morgan Stanley; the launch of a new virtual bank wealth platform for Allianz; brand-building across the region for BNY Mellon; and first anniversary celebrations for livi, a new Hong Kong bank. In the M&A arena, FH worked with EQT on its merger with BPEA as well as on post-merger integration and helped Nitori Holdings with a rare (for Japan) competing bid to acquire retailer DCM. And in the shareholder activism space, it supported KT&G amid pressure to spin off its ginseng business.
— Paul Holmes
Our 2020 Asia-Pacific Corporate/ Financial 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. Today the firm has a team of 26 and a client list comprising some of Australia’s and the world’s leading financial brands, with much of its work focusing on financial literacy. About half of Honner’s clients are headquartered offshore, and the firm has an international outlook, running 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.
Honner saw its fee income increase from AU$4.9 million to around AU$5.2 million last year, making the firm a solid mid-size player in the Australian market and likely the leading independent focused on the financial sector. Honner manages more than 50 retainer and project clients (the former accounting for about 80% of revenues). Key clients include “big-four” bank National Australia Bank and ASX-listed wealth management firm Insignia Financial; leading ETF provider Betashares; and global fund managers such as Janus Henderson, AXA Investment Managers, Aviva Investors, as well as challenger stock exchange Cboe Australia, and Crypto.com. The firm also provides consumer PR support to Colonial First State, one of Australia’s largest pensions providers. New clients included global online trading and wealth management platform Syfe and Blockchain Australia, for support of the industry’s largest talkfest Blockchain Week (March 2022).
With an emphasis on ethical practice and values (invest in relationships; curious & creative; frank & fearless; execute with excellence; and—new during the pandemic—kind & collaborative), Honner has made a significant investment in the team, in IT, and in infrastructure over the past year. Honner has embedded DEI into everything it does by taking concrete steps to create a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. The senior leadership team includes equity partners Philippa Honner and Susie Bell, as well as chief operating officer Judith Bence, head of marketing solutions Craig Morris, senior consultant Samantha Rockliff, and Fiona Parker, chief strategy officer.
Honner moved from three business units to four last year with the launch of a dedicated practiceto target the burgeoning defi/blockchain/cryptocurrency sector. The firm also set up project teams to look at the impact of new technologies such as AI and ChatGPT and to look at the market intelligence function. Highlights of the work including working with Russell Investments Group’s Zest! Platform, creating a consumer brand for Russell Investments in Australia. The firm also provided consumer PR support for Colonial First State’s above the line “Unleash Your Second Half campaign”, and provided corporate PR support for Crypto.com, establishing the company as a leading voice in the Australian crypto market amongst mainstream media.
— Paul Holmes
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