PROSPECT HEIGHTS, IL: Household International, the gigantic consumer lender, recently hired Ketchum to become its agency of record.Household, acquired last year by the world's second largest bank - HSBC Holdings - did not have an agency of record in the past, working with a variety of agencies in its various business units instead. Mark Friedlander, Household's director of PR, said, "Our goal was to have one agency provide us with support for the entire US operation." Household spoke with nine major national agencies in December. It narrowed the field to three finalists in January before selecting Ketchum. "We really liked the way they approached the issues that we put on the table," Friedlander said of Ketchum. Mike Hatcliffe, head of the corporate practice for Ketchum Midwest, will oversee the account. It is still being determined how many staffers Ketchum will put on the Household business. The account will be handled mainly out of Chicago, with support from Ketchum's New York and Washington, DC, offices. Ketchum will work on external communications, PR for Household business lines, corporate social responsibility outreach, and support for the company's efforts to promote itself as a good place to work. Household has settled several recent class action suits in this country that were brought because of the rates it charged and recently reported an improvement in its overall loan quality. It also introduced a loan product last year to move up from what is known as the subprime market that its finance firms - HFC and Beneficial - traditionally serve. It now has loan options for several levels of borrowers, Friedlander noted.