2024 Financial PR Agencies of the Year, North America | PRovoke Media

2024 Financial PR Agencies of the Year

The 2024 North America PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 150 submissions and 50 meetings with the best PR firms across the US and Canada. 

Winners are unveiled at the North American SABRE Awards ceremony, taking place on 1 May at Cipriani Midtown. Tickets and tables are available here. Analysis of all winners and finalists across 13 categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or here.

Separately, you can find the 2024 SABRE Awards North America finalists here.
 

 Finalists

BackBay Communications  (Independent)

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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 45 retainer clients supported by a 31-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 most of the last six years. 

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BackBay is headquartered in Boston and has an office in London.

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BackBay has grown every year since its founding and 2023 was no exception. Last year, the firm’s revenue grew by 19% to $6.8 million. The firm added 17 new retainer clients and 11 project clients, adding global investment manager Voya Investment Management and global fund administrator Alter Domus to its roster of financial services clients. BackBay continues to growth in the impact investing and ESG practice it launched in 2022. 

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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 are women. Founder Bill Haynes participates in the Compassionate Leadership in Finance program and promotes BackBay’s emphasis on cooperation and mutually beneficial outcomes. He is supported by group leaders Paul Lim, Maggie McDuffy and George Spencer. Stephen Fishleigh heads the London office. 

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In 2023, BackBay promoted 110 private equity and private credit deal announcements on behalf of 26 total private investment clients, six fund close announcements totaling $2.5 billion and signed six new retainer private markets clients, adding to our base of 10 retainer and 23 project clients. Key work included helping longtime client Impact Community Capital celebrate 25 years in business. Senior leaders published 12 thought leadership pieces on opportunities and challenges facing financial services firms and profiled clients in Q&A pieces. Time and resources spent on marketing paid off, resulting in sustained new business leads and wins and BackBay’s LinkedIn audience increasing by 20% YoY.

Diana Marszalek

FGS Global (WPP)

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The international consulting business of FGS (initially Finsbury Glover Hering when it won this category two years ago) 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. In March, private equity group KKR, one of the largest and most discerning investment companies in the world, bought a large stake in FGS in a deal that valued the firm at around $1.4 billion.

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With the addition of Sard Verbinnen to Finsbury’s existing New York office, FGS is now a major player in the world’s financial capital, while the Glover Park business gives it an equally formidable presence in the most critical political center of Washington DC. There’s also a smaller West Coast presence in Los Angeles and in November FGS acquired Longview, a Canadian public affairs firm with three offices in Canada. And of course, there’s a strong international network, with market leading capabilities in the UK and Germany in particular, and a growing Asia-Pacific and Middle East presence.

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While WPP’s public relations operations were largely flat in 2023, the company said that FGS Global “continued to grow strongly in 2023,” which translates into a solid double-digit increase in revenues during a difficult year. While the pace of M&A activity was at its lowest ebb in a decade, FGS was nevertheless able to increase its market share, ranked number one by both the volume and value of deals worked globally and, according to mergermarket. In the US, it ranked second only to Joele Frank, handling 219 deals worth more than $400 million. The firm also ranked second on Bloomberg’s ranking of advisors to companies facing activism battles, working with Disney on what was arguably the biggest proxy battle of the year. The firm also expanded its work with longtime client Bloomberg and continues to serve Adobe, Goldman Sachs, and UHG on an ongoing basis.

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One of the firm’s greatest strengths is an ownership structure that provides all FGS employees with a path to ownership: currently more than 500 of the firm’s 1300 people have equity in the business—almost certainly the largest number of employee owners in the business. That, and an approach that emphasizes firm-wide profit sharing over locally-driven bonuses, means FGS has a team ethos and a more collaborative culture than many of its direct competitors. The US leadership team includes CEO of North America Winnie Lerner, North American co-chairs Michael Feldman, Paul Kranhold and Paul Verbinnen, as well as Finsbury veteran Paul Holmes, Glover Park founder Carter Eskew and SVC co-founder George Sard in global roles. New hire in 2023 included Bill George, former chairman and chief executive of Medtronic, as a senior advisor; former US chief of protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall as a partner based in Washington; former Spotify senior global head for corporate communications Adam Grossberg as partner in New York; and Rebecca Gasser as global chief information officer from Omnicom Health.

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Positioning itself as “the strategic advisor for the stakeholder economy,” FGS is one of a handful of firms that can offer CEOs, boards and CEOs the kind of strategic insight they need to manage high-profile issues in the capital markets, policy, and corporate reputation arena, from ESG to M&A. The firm has been investing heavily in its Fergus AI suite, looking to combine predictive analytics with the unrivaled depth of its counseling expertise to offer clients data-driven solutions. It has also introduced a new specialty group designed to help clients make the positive case for AI and an offer that helps companies counter disinformation in the age of deepfakes. As far as the work is concerned, in the activism arena, FGS supported Disney in its proxy battle with Nelson Peltz; on the M&A front it worked with Spirit Airlines on its planned mergers with JetBlue and Frontier Group; while in the crisis arena it has been helping Norfolk Southern in the wake of an incident at its Cleveland Cliffs property and with Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank and First Republic Bank amid the bank crisis of  early 2023 and assisted Ford during high-profile union negotiations.

Paul Holmes

Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher (Independent)

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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 at the top end of 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 “special situations,” including shareholder activism, transaction communications (friendly and contested), environmental/social/governance issues and executive communications, crisis, and litigation support.

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The firm is headquartered in New York with an office in San Francisco and its 200 people serve clients around the world. n 2023, the team advised clients either based in or with substantial announcements in 22 countries, from Australia to Bermuda, from Malaysia to Mexico.

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Last year was a challenging one for mergers and acquisitions, with activity at the lowest level in a decade, but there was plenty of work in the crisis arena, with shareholder activism on the rise. By the metrics that matter to high-stakes specialist firms like Joele Frank, 2023 was pretty impressive: the firm was number two among M&A advisors in the Americas, according the mergermarket (and number three globally by the number of deals worked); and number one in Bloomberg’s Global Activism League Table. The firm’s client list includes names like 3M, LKQ, Emerson, Kroger, Mastercard, Norfolk Southern, Salesforce, S&P Global, and Verizon, while new business came from Choice Hotels, Crown Castle, MGM, Planet Fitness, SVB Financial and Stratasys.

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Joele Frank is at this point an iconic figure in the financial communications world, having outlasted most of her peers to build a firm that remains not only resolute in its independence but more than capable of going head-to-head with larger, global, publicly-traded and equity-backed consulting firms. Name partners Andy Brimmer and Dan Katcher remain active too, and partner Matt Sherman serves as president. But the depth is just as impressive as the leadership, with 24 partners and 38 managing directors and directors. And while the high-stakes financial PR business can be fairly cut-throat, team-building initiatives promote collaboration, motivation and engagement: there’s a co-ed soccer team and meditation evenings. Diverse perspectives lead to richer discussions and better outcomes so the firm is committed to promoting D&I. And giving back is valued with support for St. Jude’s Children's Hospital, Food Bank of NYC, City Harvest and more.

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Frank and her team are regular speakers at high-profile events on topics such as activism and crisis, but it’s the range of the firm’s high-profile, mission-critical assignments that stands out. In the M&A arena, the firm worked for Choice Hotels in its hostile bid for rival Wyndham, Kroger on its acquisition of Albertson’s. Stratasys as it faced a hostile bid, and US Steel as it faced an approach from Nippon Steel in one of the biggest stories of the year. In the activism arena, the firm worked with Crown Castle and Salesforce. The SVB work was one of the biggest crisis stories of the year, Norfolk Southern was another, and the firm helped Hawaiian Electric deal with the high-profile fallout from the wildfires that tore through Maui. There was a leadership transition at Planet Fitness and bankruptcies at Gol Linhas Aéreas and Rite Aid—all in a day’s work.

Paul Holmes

Prosek (Independent)

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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, 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. 

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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.

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Silicon Valley Bank had been a 10-year Prosek client before its dramatic demise in March, so that dealt something of a blow at the end of the first quarter. Nevertheless, the firm achieved 15% growth in 2023, ending the year with global fee income of around $105 million, the vast majority of it in the US. But the big win for Prosek last year was its climb to third place (behind established specialist firms like FGS and Joele Frank) in M&A deal count in the Americas according to mergermarket—and number four globally—a signal that what was once a challenger brand is now a legitimate leader. The firm continues to work with big name clients including Carlyle Group, Edward Jones, Eldridge, Prudential, Franklin Templeton Investments, Vista Equity Partners, and Wellington Management.

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Prosek is a certified women-owned business and is committed to embracing diversity of all kinds: race, ethnicity, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, political affiliation and socioeconomic background. A Diverse Mentor Program, a focus on professional development and providing “Custom Careers” are important retention tools. The Diverse Voices initiatives have offered fireside chats with Ritchie Torres, the first gay Afro-Latino American member of Congress; and Kimberly Chin, an Axios reporter and a prominent Asian female journalist. Prosek has also offered volunteer PR support to the Diversity Action Alliance. The thing that really stands out, though, is the “army of entrepreneurs” culture that Prosek has fostered through the years as the firm has expanded to include a dozen partners.

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One of the firm’s major additions in 2023 was a new managing director of data and analytics, Geoffrey Sidari, previously executive vice president of insights and analytics at WE Communications, who is leading initiatives to examine how AI can be leveraged to augment everything from measurement to influencer mapping. In addition, the firm launched a new “Conference Concierge” offer to help clients navigate the crowded marketplace of events and ensure they receive a strong return on investment for every engagement, as well as new sports business working with properties, investors, owners, operators, athletes in business and sponsors. On the deal front, Prosek work with Arctos Partners as it took a minority stake in the Aston Martin Aramco Formula One team, announced during the as Vegas Grand Prix; on Elliott Investment Management, Vertias Capital and Patient Square Capital’s acquisition of Syneos Health; Vista Equity Partners’ acquisition of EngageSmart. And while the M&A market was quiet in 2023, there was plenty of work in the activism arena, and Prosek was ranked number five for activism defense in the US by Bloomberg—it advised Fortrea on activist outreach by Starboard Value and BlackRock funds on proxy battle with Saba Capital—and number four among advisors on the activist side. The firm also worked with fintech platform CAIS to launch the new CAIS Alternative Investment Summit.

Paul Holmes

Vested (Independent)

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In nine years, Vested has gone from three co-founders – Cognito alumni Dan Simon, Binna Kim and Ishviene Arora – working around a kitchen table, to a global agency with more than 100 employees, widely recognized for its financial industry expertise and creativity. With two co-founders being women of color, Vested is passionate about helping financial brands tell more diverse, equitable and inclusive stories. Its client portfolio represents banks, asset managers, capital markets firms, industry associations, and fintechs, who lean on Vested’s creative and content studios to deliver integrated campaigns. The firm works with the world’s two largest financial information providers, tells the technology stories of top investment banks, and collaborates with the Museum of American Finance to tell the story of the finance industry’s past, and works with fintechs to shape its future. Last year, the firm’s innovations included Finance Studio, a platform for digital, content and design projects suited to individual financial brands’ needs and budget.

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Headquartered in New York, Vested also operates offices in London and Toronto. 

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Vested grew fee income by 5% last year to $25 million, and the team hit the 100-person mark for the first time. The agency expanded its existing relationships with clients including Aon, Bloomberg, American Express, SEI and Morgan Stanley. New Clients included the World Gold Council and Apex.

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Group CEO Kim and president and chief client officer Arora are supported by a leadership team including EMEA CEO Elspeth Rothwell, who leads Vested’s London office, and US CEO Amber Roberts. From the start, diversity has been a cornerstone of Vested, which prides itself on standing for positive change, and putting the wellbeing of employees at the core of every business decision. The agency sets employees up for success by fostering career growth, strong relationships and a healthy work balance, as well as ensuring everyone has equal opportunity. Vested’s interview processes removes unconscious bias through practices such as not checking LinkedIn profiles and avoiding introductory video calls. Its people-first initiatives and programs include fully hybrid working, quarterly in-person ‘campus days’ for global team members to come together, a sabbatical program and annual securities industry training to ensure the team is fully equipped to manage requests from any of the securities businesses it supports. 

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Vested is a partner in Qwoted, the tech platform that brings together financial journalists and sources, and Financial Narrative, Vested’s networking organization for financial CMO and CCOs, has grown to 1,000+ members worldwide. The agency’s teams produced exceptional client work last year, including multi-channel integrated comms for long-time client Aon to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, showcasing the value of apprenticeship programs for rebuilding the economy, advancing racial and gender equity, and supporting underserved communities. The agency also worked with HSBC to launch its new payments narrative with a global influencer campaign across 14 key regions, with over seven million impressions, and gained a SABRE nomination for its work with investing app Plynk.

Maja Pawinska Sims