MUMBAI--HSBC has selected IPAN Hill + Knowlton as its first retained PR agency in India, following a competitive review.

IPAN secures the brief after a pitch that featured five other agencies. Previously, HSBC worked with PR agencies on a project basis. H+K already handles a considerable amount of HSBC business in the US, UK and Asia.

The firm will work to enhance the bank's brand awareness and corporate reputation, while improving visibility of its key Indian businesses. HSBC is hoping to position itself as a more globally connected bank in India, where it runs the second-highest number of branches of any foreign bank.

The account will be run from IPAN's Mumbai office, headed by senior VP and corporate head Vinod Moorthy.

The appointment comes amid a potential shakeup of India's banking sector, which has struggled to provide the financing required for growth.

“The [banking and finance] sector has some unique communications challenges, not least of which is the need for companies to show clear and consistent differentiation and strategic focus,” said Radhika Shapoorjee, IPAN H+K South Asia president. "HSBC wants to attract global companies looking at India as well as Indian companies going global."

The bank's decision to hire a PR firm follows a difficult period in the country, when it was accused of facing a 'crisis of confidence' by the Business Standard, after being charged with various infractions.