PROFILE: Robert Bailhache, Financial Dynamics - Bailhache walks out on to the pitch at last

Robert Bailhache will be more than a spectator in Financial Dynamics role

Robert Bailhache - the former City editor at The Business who last month became a partner at City PR agency Financial Dynamics - has, in his words, had enough of being a spectator. He quit journalism, he says, to get to the heart of the capital markets that he has spent a decade merely observing.

The latest in a stream of high-profile moves from business journalism into financial PR - in the past year, to name just two movers, Neil Bennett and Rory Godson have quit The Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times, respectively - Bailhache has taken up residence in FD's financial services team.

It is the culmination of ten years market-watching around the world.

Prior to Sunday Business, which he joined in February 2000 as deputy City editor and capital markets columnist, he worked in Hong Kong for AFX News, as bureau chief for the Greater China region.

His interest in the Far East stemmed from his MA in South Asian Studies/Politics at London's School of Oriental and African Studies. The young Bailhache then headed off to Hong Kong to write for business magazine The Far Eastern Economic Review.

He uses a football metaphor to describe his latest move, comparing journalism to 'viewing a game from the stands', in contrast to financial PR, which will enable him to 'get on to the pitch'.

Is this metaphor appropriate? Kirstie Hamilton - who made a similar switch a year ago, leaving her Sunday Times City editor job to join Tulchan Communications - says: 'I agree in general, but some would say we (financial PROs) sometimes only have a coaching role. Still, being a coach is better than being in the stands, so I think he is broadly right.'

One company that Bailhache - who is (frustratingly) accompanied at the interview by his new boss, managing director Alex Child-Villiers - would have closely monitored in his journalistic days is Cordiant Communications.

FD's troubled parent has widely reported plans to sell off assets, including FD, but Bailhache has learnt the discretion needed to be a successful PRO. Discussion of the FD management team's ongoing MBO talks with the Cordiant board is emphatically off the agenda today.

'As a journalist it was good to be a witness, but it was time for a new challenge. The ability to formulate business strategies - to be at the heart of markets - is a rewarding thing for me,' says Bailhache.

A year on from her own move, Hamilton sums up the upside of such a switch: 'One of the joys of advisory work is being able to find out more than journalists can.'

Bailhache has taken the role of partner in the six-person City division of FD's 25-strong London-based European financial services team. He seems unfazed by the challenges ahead, eulogising FD as 'the number one business comms agency in European mergers and acquisitions, one that is consistently on top of the league tables'.

But given the continued economic downturn and the uncertainty created by the ongoing conflict in Iraq, is now the best time to talk up the opportunities in City PR? Bailhache points out that financial services are 'at the frontline of capital markets' and that financial PR workflow is primarily dictated by the unwavering demands of financial reporting obligations.

And in any case, recent months at The Business have been no cake walk, he says. Midway through his three-year spell at the paper, which he joined when it was still the old Sunday Business, Andrew Neil - who Bailhache describes as 'having demanding expectations on his journalists, and rightly so' - was drafted in to overhaul the paper.

Circulation has since doubled from 54,000 in November 2001 to around 95,000 at the turn of the year.

Bailhache says he 'always had a feeling he wasn't going to be a career journalist' and appears reluctant to dwell on his journalistic years, saying he won't miss a 'single aspect' of working in a national newspaper newsroom.

One former colleague - Sylvia Pfeifer, former world business editor at The Business who has succeeded Bailhache as City editor - says: 'Rob was very good at gauging the mood of the City and picking up on what the key issues were, both for investors and bankers.'

The Business deputy editor Ian Watson is similarly gushing, describing Bailhache as 'one of the best City editors I have ever worked with'.

A decade on, will Bailhache relish City PR work? Hamilton points out that the attributes City journalists and PROs need to succeed - such as a solid contact base and established reputation - are similar.

The hiring of Bailhache - who has worked in two of the most vibrant capital markets in the world, where he recalls his 'incredible access' to City power-brokers - is clearly an opportune scoop for FD.

HIGHLIGHTS

1998: Bureau chief, AFX News, Hong Kong

2000: Deputy City editor, Sunday Business

2001: City editor, The Business

2003: Partner, Financial Dynamics

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