FTI Consulting UK: Agency Business Report 2015

Strong UK results signal good times ahead for FTI as public affairs takes centre stage in London

John Waples: Senior MD and UK head of strategic comms, FTI Consulting
John Waples: Senior MD and UK head of strategic comms, FTI Consulting

Principals: Steve Gunby, CEO, FTI Consulting; John Waples, senior MD and UK head of strategic comms
Ownership: Independent
Offices: Global 104; UK 1
Revenues: Global $169.6m (£116m); UK £31.3m
Headcount: Global 630; UK 170

FTI’s UK revenue reached £31.3m in 2014, a rise of 0.6 per cent.

That growth was more modest than in both the US (3.8 per cent) and Asia-Pacific (8.4 per cent). Nevertheless, John Waples (pictured), senior MD and UK head of strategic comms, says: "It was a good year for us, it was one of the best we’ve had for five years and I think that just reflects an improving economy."

It was certainly an eventful period, not least with the creation of a new public affairs arm in London headed by Alex Dean, formerly of Weber Shandwick and before that an aide to David Cameron.

"We believe now that public affairs is front and centre of what we do," says Waples. "We have really strong public affairs in Brussels and in Washington, where we bought a very good little business called C2 [in 2013]. It was really important to complete that treble in London and it’s working."

The division now employs ten people and has "good client wins under our belt", including Exxon­Mobil and MasterCard. FTI has now extended its work with the latter to a global brief.

"If there’s one challenge that we really want to crack this year it’s to operate as a pan-European business. Wins like MasterCard are starting to give us the confidence to do that," says Waples.

Last year also saw FTI outsource its creative des­ign business. That operation previously employed around 20 staff in-house. "We decided that was not really core to what we do," Waples explains.

2014 also saw the London office move from Holborn to its current location at Aldersgate in the City, enabling all the various strands to be housed over two floors. This means there are "many more conversations now taking place between all aspects of the business and a desire to try to create more products where we can work together".

Waples names Saga and Brit Insurance as key, UK-centric account wins last year. The group also had its "fair share" of wins from IPO-primed clients, including Virgin Money and DFS.

Client losses have included Sports Direct, Informa and British Aerospace. Waples points out that the loss of the latter two followed the departure of their CEO and chairman respectively.

On the flip side, he adds: "Half our clients have been with us for more than five years. We are a firm that believes in long-term relationships."

Elsewhere in EMEA, in Paris, FTI hired Arnaud Salla from Makinson Cowell to head its European capital markets business. He has already bought business with him including Technip, the French energy giant.

The agency said its Brussels office, led by Julia Harrison, virtually doubled its revenues in the past two years and is building a corporate business under Simon Dibb to work on big pan-European accounts.

The German office had one of its strongest years in 2014, the agency said, buoyed by business from Merck, Korber AG and Robert Bosch. There was also growth at its offices in Dubai and South Africa "as the global economy continued its recovery last year".

Social strategies
Waples points to the agency’s work with two clients in particular as among his 2014 highlights. Firstly, representing and retaining pharmaceutical firm Shire during an ultimately unsuccessful acquisition bid by Abbvie.

Secondly, working with Nokia during the sale of its handset business to Microsoft, a project that saw FTI staff embedded in Helsinki working "day and night for several weeks".

Big developments have taken place around social media. As well as devising social strategies for Nomura, Ashurst and Zurich Bank, FTI developed a social media crisis simulation product, a response framework designed to help clients react to crises.

This came amid changes at the top of the global business, with the appointment of new FTI Consulting CEO Steve Gunby, who joined from The Boston Consulting Group.

Gunby has emphasised the need for growth in the UK and regionally. Specifically, the bold aim is to be a market leader in financial PR, energy and health, as well as to strengthen the public affairs capabilities.

"We have presented a growth plan to Steve Gunby and he’s expecting that to yield big results in 2016," says Waples. "It is the year when the bets have to begin paying off."

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