Diana Marszalek 04 Mar 2022 // 2:57PM GMT
NEW YORK — Former Ketchum global CEO Barri Rafferty is stepping down from her role leading Wells Fargo communications less than two years after being tasked with cleaning up the bank’s image.
"I can confirm that Barri Rafferty, Head of Communications & Brand Management, will be leaving Wells Fargo on May 1," a Wells Fargo spokesperson said in a statement. "Barri brought an innovative approach to communications and brand at Wells Fargo, and we are grateful for her efforts. She will continue to lead the team for the next two months, and we are launching an internal and external search for her successor."
Rafferty joined Wells Fargo in July 2020 — a move that surprised industry observers given her position and long tenure at Ketchum.
She became part of a new leadership team under CEO Charles Scharf and public affairs vice chairman Bill Daley, aiming to rebuild the company's reputation after its high-profile fake accounts scandal.
"Barri brought an innovative approach to our communications," Daley said in a staff memo. "We've seen our reputation metrics improve resulting in enhanced favorability, trust and ... media sentiment."
Rafferty did not respond to request for comment.
Rafferty's move to Wells Fargo came amid a string of changes in the bank’s communications department after the crisis, which included corporate comms head Oscar Suris leaving the job after nine years. In February, he joined Edelman has head of its New York operation.
At that time, Rafferty said the Wells Fargo opportunity was a rare one "to take an iconic American brand and help it shift its culture and reputation."
"It’s a true opportunity to do something totally different at this point in my career," she said. "One of the things I’ve realized is I love a good transformation. I just felt like this chance to help Wells Fargo with its transformation was pretty exciting."
Rafferty, who was succeeded at Ketchum by Mike Doyle, had been with the Omnicom agency since 1995 — rising through the ranks in various leadership roles before being named as one of the first women to lead a global PR firm in 2017.
By Ketchum's standards, her tenure was relatively short — just two and a half years, compared to her five-year predecessor Rob Flaherty, who himself took over after Ray Kotcher held the top position for 12 years.
Under Rafferty, Ketchum restructured its model to notable effect around industry sectors and virtual teams, while also parting ways with a number of senior executives and making several rounds of layoffs, the most recent of which came after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In its most recent earnings report, Omnicom reported that its PR group — which also includes FleishmanHillard and Porter Novelli — saw revenue rise 6.3% in 2021 and 4.4% in Q4, marking the third consecutive quarterly lift since the height of the Covid pandemic.