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Jennifer Prosek founded Prosek Partners in 1991, with the vision of helping the financial services sector become more proactive – and far more creative – around brand and reputation management. The firm’s offer now covers media relations, thought leadership, social and digital media, public affairs, investor relations, financial communications, transaction services, crisis communications and issues management, content creation, conference support, publishing, media training and more. Prosek's strategic branding and integrated marketing arm – Prophecy by Prosek – adds brand strategy, and design, digital and advertising capabilities. In 2021, Prosek stepped up its ESG credentials by taking a majority stake in sustainable finance consultancy, Blue Dot Capital – another female-led business and last year launched a joint integrated investor relations ESG offering for public and late-stage companies. The agency also launched its crypto and web3 offering last year.
Headquartered in New York, Prosek’s 340 employees also work across Boston, Los Angeles, Fairfield, Palm Beach and Washington DC, as well as in London and Cape Town.
Prosek Partners grew by 14.5% in 2022 to $91.7 million, with the firm’s focus on special situation, ESG, government affairs and brand marketing reaping handsome dividends. There was new business from Santander and MSCI, as well as an expanded brief from existing client Citi, joining a roster that includes Bridgewater, Carlyle Group, Edward Jones, Prudential, Franklin Templeton Investments and Vista Equity Partners.
Prosek is a certified Women-Owned Business and is committed to building a workforce reflecting and embracing diversity of all kinds. This has resulted in 19% ethnic representation, 45% women at SVP level and above, and a 21% diverse workforce overall, rising to 47% of post-graduate apprentices. The agency tracks DEI data and employee feedback on culture, diversity and belonging via the Pluto platform, with the aim of protecting its culture and helping senior management navigate how to best support and engage with employees on topics such as mental health, social justice, racially-charged issues, and difficult topics in the news. Additional initiatives led by the agency’s Culture, Diversity and Belonging Council include the Diverse Voices series of talks, a diversity training programme covering everything from unconscious bias to managing multigenerational employees. The firm also runs a Diverse Mentor Program, works with career services at Historically Black Universities/Colleges to recruit diverse junior talent, and provides volunteer PR support to the Diversity Action Alliance (DAA). New senior hires over the year included SVPs Johnny Chavkin, Darren Daugherty and Aiden Woglom, as well as managing directors Deirdre Bolton and Michelle Mandara.
Prosek continued its Press Profiles Podcast of senior journalists, including Financial Times senior editor Robin Wigglesworth. Campaign highlights included working on the rebrand of the New York Stock Exchange, and helping Schroders build its profile as a sustainability leader; after being unranked in the ESG NMG annual ranking of sustainable businesses, the asset management company was ranked #3 in 2022 and added paid media to Prosek’s PR and social strategy brief.
— Paul Holmes
Bill Haynes launched BackBay Communications in 2005 in Boston as a boutique PR firm focused on asset management and private equity, but over the last few years has evolved the firm to keep pace with the changing financial services industry, adding fintech and impact investing to its expertise. BackBay today has 50 retainer clients supported by a 32-person staff comprised of former financial journalists and marketing execs in addition to the skilled PR pros responsible for the 90% client retention rate BackBay has maintained for the last five years.
BackBay is headquartered in Boston and has an office in London.
BackBay has grown every year since its founding and 2022 was no exception. Last year, the firm’s revenue grew by 26% to $6.1 million. BackBay has increased its headcount by 50% over the last two years to support that growth, adding 12 new employees in 2022 alone, creating a 32-person staff. The addition of new impact investing and ESG clients increased BackBay’s clients in that sector by 75% in 2022, when the firm formally launched an impact investing and ESG practice.
That BackBay’s staff is organized by specialty — private equity, asset management, fintech and impact investing — doesn’t diminish the premium the firm puts on collaboration around everything from client wins to team building. Charitable endeavors include supporting employees’ volunteerism and donations, group volunteerism and annual contributions to Save the Children and the Greater Boston Food Bank. Inclusivity is one of BackBay’s core values; More than half of the firm’s employees and 75% of 2022 new hires are women.
In 2022, BackBay promoted 132 deal announcements for 33 private investment clients and publicized 12 fund closes totaling $14.8 billion on behalf of private equity clients. From January 2022 to January 2023, the agency secured 151 pieces of coverage highlighting Karen Clark & Company’s expertise in catastrophe modeling.
— Diana Marszalek
The international consulting business of FGS (it was still Finsbury Glover Hering when it won this category last year) 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 of 2021, 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.
FGS has 1,200 professionals across 27 global offices. In the EMEA region it has its largest operations in the UK and Germany (the heritage headquarters of Finsbury and Hering Schuppener respectively)—the latter home to four offices in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich). The rest of the EMEA operation includes offices Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Burssels, Dublin, Paris, Riyadh, and Zurich. There are partner companies in other key markets.
FGS broke into the top 10 on our global ranking of public relations firms last year, with fee income of just under $400 million. After a year during which there was ever more urgent need for the kind of high-stakes C-suite counsel that FGS provides, the post-merger growth has continued. One metric of the firm’s success is its continued domination of the mergermarket ranking of M&A advisors: In a down year for mergers and acquisitions activity around the world, the newly-merged FGS Global ranked number one in terms of the volume of deals (322) and the value of deals ($657 billion) handled. It was number one in the US in both categories. Major clients include ABB, Bayer, Deutsche Bank, Volkswagen, Audi, KKR, 3i, Porsche, Cariad, Intel, Clariant, A22 Sports Management.
One of the things that differentiates FSG from other public relations firms of its size, and from most of its competitors in the corporate and financial ream, 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 1,200 employees around the world are owners—almost certainly the largest number of employee owners in the business. In North America, the leadership team includes Finsbury vets like Paul Holmes and Winnie Lerner; Glover Park leaders Carter Eskew and Michael Feldman and new additions from the SVC business Andrew Cole and Paul Kranhold.
There has been a greater need for C-suite public relations counsel than ever in recent years, with issues such as the pandemic (FGS worked with German vaccine developer BioNTech) to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine (the firm helped several companies decide whether, when and how to divest themselves of their Russian holdings). And the firm has been producing thought leadership on the many issues keeping CEOs awake at nights from ESG reporting to the “great resignation” to the EU’s new “green deal.” The firm’s financial transaction work that earned it the number one spot from mergermarket both globally and in the US.
— Paul Holmes
Founded in 2000 by Joele Frank, who had worked at legendary financial communications firms Ogilvy Adams & Rinehart and Abernathy MacGregor, Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher went from upstart to market leader almost overnight, becoming a fixture on various lists of M&A communications advisors and quickly establishing itself as a leader in broader corporate reputation, investor relations and crisis communications work. Today the firm can offer particular expertise in shareholder activism, transaction communications (friendly and contested), environmental/social/governance issues and executive compensation, crisis and special situations, and litigation support.
The firm is headquartered in New York with an office in San Francisco and serves clients around the world.
Having started with a team of 12 people, oele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher has grown into a powerhouse of 175 people—adding 45 people in 2022 alone. Like many of its peers in the high-stakes financial communications world, the firm doesn’t discuss revenues, but one metric that is publicly available is its performance on the mergermarket ranking of public relations advisors to major financial transactions: in 2022, Joele Frank ranked third in terms of the number of deals worked globally (227) and second in terms of the value of deals. It was second on both metrics in terms of US deals only. New assignments in 2022 came from Crown Holdings, FTX Trading, OpenText, Peloton, Rio Tinto, Ryder System, and Shopify, while the firm continued its work for high-profile names such as 3M, Blackstone, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Broadcom, Lowes Companies, Mastercard, Motorola Solutions, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Weyerhauser, and Verizon.
In addition to Joele Frank herself, founding partners Andrew Brimmer and Daniel Katcher continue to serve as vice chairmen, while president Matthew Sherman is also a founding member of the firm, supported by 25 partners—new partners in 2022 included Adam Pollack, Arielle Rothstein, and Joseph Sala. The firm is committed to fostering a cohesive and collaborative culture and attracting and retaining a skilled and diverse workforce. The firm’s Diversity & Engagement Committee, overseen by the board, has been developing policies to ensure greater diversity and underrepresented minorities currently account for 21% of the firm’s employees. Joele Frank’s employee volunteer program, JF Gives Back, supports organizations such as St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Surf Rider Foundation, Food Bank NYC, Literacy Inc. and Hope For The Warriors.
With the introduction of the Universal Proxy Card in 2022, Joele Frank was at the forefront of advising clients on how to adapt to the changing proxy landscape and communicate with shareholders in this new environment. The firm’s ESG team, meanwhile, hosted webinars such as the “Investors’ ESG Hot List” and published a monthly “Joele Frank ESG Insight” newsletter. Highlights of the client work including counseling Broadcom in its pending acquisition of VMWare; FTX Trading and 101 affiliated debtors in the filing of a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11; Kroger in its pending merger with Alberton’s in a transaction valued at $24.6 billion; Humana in its defense against activist Starboard Value; and Twitter in its sale to Elon Musk.
— Paul Holmes
Founded in 2015 by CEO Dan Simon and president Binna Kim, who previously led the US offices of Cognito, and with a leadership team that includes fellow Cognito alum Ishviene Arora (president), Vested got off to an explosive start—earning our New Agency of the Year honors in 2017—and has not looked back since. The firm’s focus on financial brands is supported by in-house creative and content studios, along with the Qwoted technology platform that connects business and finance journalists with vetted sources. The firm’s offering displays remarkable breadth, including the Scribe SEO content practice, the Vested Ventures investment, marcomms entity Caliber, the Talking Biz News business journalism news website, website development and digital marketing group Red Lab, and Financial Narrative — a community for financial marketers to share best practice. Vested also launched an ESG consultancy at the start of 2021.
Headquartered in New York, Vested also operates offices in London and Toronto.
Vested won 37 new clients in 2022, including Van Eck, Webster Bank, and Yieldstreet. The firm expanded existing relationships with Bloomberg and Aon, becoming their North American PR partner, and furthered robust partnerships with American Express, Morgan Stanley, SEI. Finastra. Citi TTS and HSBC among others. Revenue increased by 44% to $23.8 million, due to new client acquisition as well as increased revenue from current clients across Vested’s New York, London and Toronto offices. Vested worked with 78 different clients in 2022, a 59% increase from 49 in 2021.
Vested responded to the changing nature of work by eliminating its traditional office in favour of a new collaboration hub, while its focus on culture and professional development is underpinned by the Vested program that helps employees advance in terms of understanding finance, fintech and diversity. Kim and Arora feature on a leadership team that reflects considerable DEI depth, helping financial brands tell more diverse, equitable and inclusive stories.
Vested has garnered audiences and accolades for the On Aon podcast, a twice-monthly series featuring the people, innovations and news that define the culture of the professional services firm Aon. Vested’s thought leaders were very visible in the larger industry in 2022, addressing a range of subjects — the risks and benefits of ESG, communicating during an economic downturn, and how reshaping the leadership will help the AAPI community.
— Arun Sudhaman
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