Financial Roundtable: Adjustment for a changing market

Keith O'Brien and Tonya Garcia were in New York to discuss financial communications.

This year, PRWeek will visit eight cities where an industry close to that respective region will be discussed. For each event, leading PR pros from a variety of firms, companies, and other organizations will gather in a roundtable discussion about the issues affecting them and their peers. Keith O'Brien and Tonya Garcia were in New York to discuss financial communications.

Keith O'Brien (PRWeek): What's the biggest change that you've seen in financial communications in the past five years? How different is it? Do you feel like there's been a great change? Are there more ways to reach stakeholders today?

William Walkowiak (NexCen Brands): I certainly would say that the Internet and all of the electronic communications makes the biggest difference in how we do our jobs. So much is coming back and forth on your computers as opposed to print and some of the more traditional things. It's kind of obvious, but that is the overriding thing that has made such a difference in everything I do.

Cindy Leggett-Flynn (Brunswick Group): And I would add the level of scrutiny that's being given to financial communications with class-action lawsuits, [Sarbanes-Oxley], more regulation, more financial institutions being blamed for market ills generally, and more direct communications in video and film that archive things forever and are referred to over and over.

Liza Landsman (Citi Cards): There are a lot of electronic media that we leverage [and] we drive. But there's this whole other thing that's happened in the last five years around blogging and the communication that's happening by our consumers and clients about things that we do, things we say that is like a whole world unto itself. That's the place where we're looking at the activity. We're not intervening in it, but it's both the leading indicator and the lagging indicator of how consumers perceive our actions

Lex Suvanto (Abernathy MacGregor): Investors are watching all of it unfold. So consumers are seeing us from a different light, and investors are gathering information in a different way. They are able to see things they weren't able to see before. Some of it is right, some of it is wrong. And we're faced with the challenge of shaping it so that they see the right picture.

Brian Maney (American Capital): Expert personal opinion has been empowered in a way that I don't think people really thought possible, say, five or 10 years ago.

With respect to substance, everyone knows what private equity is now and as recently as two years ago that was an esoteric subject.

Steve Frankel (Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher): [T]he markets are moving so fast, that it's incumbent upon all of us to help clients and companies communicate faster.

Cara O'Brien (FD): But not too fast. We also have to help them slow down because I've been in a lot of situations where they want to say something right away, but first let's get the facts before we say anything. It cuts both ways basically.

Scott Tangney (Makovsky & Co.): I think we've seen financial services kind of late to the game, but they are catching up, especially in the institutional investor category. You're seeing a lot more creativity in terms of online and interactive media, especially in social media and I think you'll see that increase in the future too.

Thomas Davies (Kekst & Company): Beyond the techniques within the last five years, for the first time in my career, when dealing with financial services, we've also actually had discussions about concerns regards runs on the bank and runs on a fund. So I would say the stakes are far higher than they have been in the past.

Maney (American Capital): Social media presents specific challenges for financial services because it's just a heavily regulated environment.

Landsman (Citi Cards): But it's such a powerful consumer trend that despite everyone's potential nervousness around it you ignore it at your peril.

Leggett-Flynn (Brunswick): It's beyond consumer definitely. Last year, at the M&A conference in Tulane to hear corporate lawyers and bankers say that they view it as another media source is pretty spectacular.

Davies (Kekst): I also think it's fraught with the dangers of the prospect of distraction by virtue of all those other new media, some that are reputable, some that are not reputable at all. I think, if anything, it puts more emphasis on communicating a much more complex message to a much more complex world to the reputable, serious media because that's the one way that you can navigate…these distractions and potential misinformation that's out there.

Suvanto (Abernathy): What you raise is interesting because there's a tension. Some days I feel like I want to go “blog blog blog.” And on other days, I think “It's the basic principle. Let's stop, let's think, and let's do this according to the traditional most reputable channels.” There's a real tension between how do you balance this. 

As you track the evolution of new media, investors and financial communications are the last frontier. Consumers got it, technology got it. We're the last ones to take it on and I don't think we really have yet because people still say The Wall Street Journal and that's it;  maybe The Wall Street Journal online if you're generous. We're the last bastion of conventional communications and now it's coming in and there's this tension that's playing out.

Tangney (Makovsky): You'd be surprised especially with the institutional [investors use of] Webcasts, podcasts, and especially in this volatility that we're experiencing, [there's] the need to communicate with stakeholders on a much more than frequent basis.

Landsman (Citi Cards): I think that's a really critical point. The volatility that we're experiencing now in the markets and the speed with which the ups and downs are occurring is unprecedented. That makes the feedback between the traditional media and [new] media much tighter. It's hard to choreograph your way.

O'Brien (FD): That makes your own communication so much more important as well. You have to make sure that your message is dead on and it's very consistent to all audiences. It's an opportunity too. You actually use media the same way, but better.

Bethany Sherman (NASDAQ): From an issues perspective as opposed to a channels perspective, the sophistication has increased exponentially. Who here knew what a sovereign wealth fund was 18 months ago? We have investors that were once known as corporate raiders that are now known as investor activists. The terms and the rules of the games have changed.

Leggett-Flynn (Brunswick): Conversely, talking about opportunities, it seems what we do is much more valued within organizations, companies, and senior management in a way that it wasn't before.

O'Brien (PRWeek): The fact that consumers are more engaged, know the buzzwords and know a lot more, does that change how companies speak to them as opposed to other stakeholders that are more involved in the day- to- day public environment?

Davies (Kekst): Consumer brands, now more than ever, the messages have to have authenticity and connect with the values that people want to ascribe to that brand. In many ways, the brand messaging has to be consistent with the corporate values messaging. It's almost impossible to do one without the other.

Leggett-Flynn (Brunswick): Even the business media are pushing us to use plain English because all of the business media is trying to reach a broader audience.

Sherman (NASDAQ): The Journal specifically has changed. They don't like to hold exclusives anymore. Their top editors will just say, “We're going straight to online.”

Davies (Kekst): There's increasing personalization of business. More journalists, even at the more staid publications historically, want to tell the story through the eyes of the celebrity CEO or the celebrity VP or marketing person, which is sometimes anathema to what you're trying to do in terms of your corporate positioning. I despair sometimes, frankly, that what gets lost sometimes is some of the quality of the reporting in favor of the celebrity aspects of it.

Frankel (JFWBK): What happens in the financial communications area [is it] really bleeds over into what other stakeholders are seeing and reading and hearing about the company. That helps inform corporate reputation more than ever before given all the crises we're seeing with financial companies in particular.

Suvanto (Abernathy): I'm dealing with one situation where the company has done great things. The CEO has been the CEO during that time, so he did it. But because he doesn't like to take credit, because he isn't thinking about building his own profile, people don't give him credit. And it's a problem because the CEO is an important player in the game and analysts evaluate the company based on the credibility of the leader.

Susan Stillings (Edelman): The trust in CEOs as a spokesperson has declined in the last five or six years. So the CEO [may not] want to be up front because of the whole CEO pay issue or other issues, it's a problem for the company.

O'Brien (PRWeek): Has there been an increase in publications that have taken a more tabloid view of the CEO or the people that are out in front for brands and companies?

Landsman (Citi Cards): I think so but I don't think that's unique to the financial services industry. I think that's probably the general trend across industries over the last five or six years.

Frankel (JFWBK): And also the NY Post has improved its business coverage but it's also much more personal.

Landsman (Citi Cards): My CFO now jokingly refers to the Post as the “paper of record.”

Sherman (NASDAQ): Portfolio is interesting too. It's The Atlantic or The New Yorker of financial services.

O'Brien (PRWeek): Is there still that print obsession from the C-suite that it's about the portrait or the wood cut in the Wall Street Journal versus going to them and saying “This online piece got 600,000 pages views”?

Stillings (Edelman):  I think it depends on what the news is. I think in deal media, The Wall Street Journal, FT, New York Times, depending on where the company is based whether they're international or domestic. If it's material, they want to be in print. If they want to raise a profile it's different. They want to be in Portfolio and online.

Tangney (Makovsky): Print is still a main component in terms of building thought leadership in the financial services industry [and] in terms of the influence of The Journal, The New York Times, Barron's, FT has with that readership, especially reaching a very targeted audience for clients like ours.

Frankel (JFWBK): But what's really changed is that traditional print media has become much more analytical. Because of the speed at which the news is traveling and the blogs are often beating them to the punch, or their own blogs.

Davies (Kekst): [Reporters keeping] their own blogs is also a different beast, because it almost allows more editorializing but it's not informal editorial. So it's almost a “mid-stream” kind of media. I often find the blogs for traditional media very interesting and, in many ways, a lot more agenda-setting. I read them very carefully.

O'Brien (PRWeek): On the topic of blogs and pitching, do you feel overwhelmed with all the new sources that you have to deal with?

Davies (Kekst): As important as blogging has become, as important as Internet-based media has become, I still think that five years from now it will be a completely different world. There's a significant gap between reputable bloggers and players; there's a lot of chaff out there. There are a lot of one-issue folks that aren't terribly agenda-setting or consequential. But I think over time, that'll sort itself out.

We see Paul Steiger's new enterprise, ProPublica, where he's going to be putting together a world-class team of investigative reporters with a different business model and we'll have to see if that works or if it doesn't. But I think we're seeing an influx of people who are consequential within our industry who are doing interesting things. There's going to be a lot of evolution to come.

Leggett-Flynn (Brunswick): I wasn't looking at it as disparate media… there are certain reputable blogs and they're just another outlet that you do have to deal with and have to build relationships with. That's about working closely with the company, [finding out] what moves perception internally and externally, what's driving the way your company is being perceived and how your messaging is being perceived. It's still part of the same “call list.”

Davies (Kekst): I think the relationship between traditional media and the blogosphere sets up traditional media in a new role. In addition to reporting the news, they're becoming an even more important aggregator and interpreter of the news. The fire hose is out there, but they have a new role to play for people who don't have time to read all the sources.

Maney (American Capital): We have a product that's perceived as a niche product and [we're] always looking for places to tell that story. So it's interesting to be in a room with people who think there's a fire hose [of information] out there.

Frankel (JFWBK): In some ways, given the volume [of information], that makes it more important to focus on messaging rather than medium. If we're clear about what our messages are, it doesn't make a difference if there are 10 or 100 people covering it. We're trying to get a consistent story across.

Sherman (NASDAQ): Globalization is also a challenge. It's not the amount of information, but it's 24 hours. We're a global exchange. I've got stories coming in when I'm asleep. I get up and need to be on top of it right away and then read the Journal.

Suvanto (Abernathy): That actually throws some old strategies out the window. If you think you're going to be able to give a US exclusive to somebody and a non-US exclusive to somebody else, that may not work. The US guy's going to read it online from the international publication and say, “You didn't give me the exclusive.” There are no more borders in time or geography.

O'Brien (PRWeek): And the days of burying the news on Friday are no more.

Davies (Kekst): Because there's a Saturday Journal.

Sherman (NASDAQ): I think with globalization also, it's interesting what can work to your advantage. There are different washes of news during the day. We put out a piece of the news, you get the initial wave of wire coverage in Europe and Asia; they're really setting the tone for how it'll be covered here. It's interesting to manage the waves of coverage.

Stillings (Edelman): If a story breaks in Asia, it's breaking at nighttime; you have a chance to change the story by the time it gets to reporters here.

Leggett-Flynn (Brunswick): A challenge for organizations that are global, and have multiple communications heads in multiple countries, you are trying to get out the same message across borders. We're definitely seeing an uptick of companies that are trying to manage that and build that umbrella, especially across Asia, which has its own issues.

Davies (Kekst): A lot of companies are taking internal communications [and] being transparent with their employee base much more seriously. When you have employees in all time zones, that becomes a bigger challenge. That's another overlay when thinking through announcements: How are you going to be sensitive to employees' needs so they don't get scooped?

O'Brien: (PRWeek): For things like proxy battles, do activist investors have a leg up using digital media to get their message across?

O'Brien (FD): I don't think it's digital necessarily. I think it's their use of PR and media in general. That's another change in the last five years. They're using Web sites, they've got their own PR firms…

Maney (American Capital): They're outside the corral and they take pot shots in.

Frankel (JFWBK): Also, they're on the offensive. Our companies and out clients are on the defensive.

Sherman (NASDAQ):
And the media is a very important tool for them.

Leggett-Flynn (Brunswick): It's the key tool.

O'Brien (PRWeek): How would you gauge overall the media's handling of Icahn-like stories? Are they approaching it fairly?

Leggett-Flynn (Brunswick): Every reporter wants to write about a fight. These are the most exciting things that they can write about. They're business reporters ,[but] it's like a political campaign. They get to write about the back and forth; the attacks can be personal, which everyone wants to read about. Going back to tabloid business reporting, they're probably reporting it straight from their perspective, reporting on a letter that's been published, and then they report on the response. They're not necessarily taking a view on whether the arguments that are being thrown at the company [is] valid.

Davies (Kekst): I've been surprised by the lack of consistent quality of the techniques employed by the activists. The predominance of our work is on the corporate side and my assessment is the corporate side, notwithstanding the disadvantages of being on the defensive often, generally has higher quality, better-conceived communications because it's something they do on a daily basis and usually have a very good internal and external apparatus.

Stillings (Edelman):  I think the media gives them so much more of a voice. It may not just be them, it may be other investors in the stock that are with them.

Tangney (Makovsky): I think because [it's] corporate activism, most investors think the corporation will be better off because of the dialogue and the way things are vetted out, so I think that's why the media lends to that dialogue also.

Frankel (JFWBK): That's why it's important for companies to communicate their strategy to their key stakeholders before the fight happens, when they're not on the defensive.

Davies (Kekst): There are a lot of things companies can be doing with respect to corporate governance, communicating their performance, telling a cohesive story, such that the activists that are on their screens looking every day for who they're going to target, they're going to go after the low hanging fruit. There's a huge role that communications has to play in order to avoid the fight in the first place. 

Maney (American Capital):  Private equity is the public relations opportunity of the decade. It's ubiquitous and it's misunderstood. The headline version of what it does is so at odds with what they think they do that anyone who goes to help them has a significant educational task. 

Frankel (JFWBK): Because the buyout business has come to a grinding halt, they're taking more investments in public companies. Because they've gotten preferential treatment for their capital infusion, some of the other shareholders are angry at the private equity firms.

Suvanto (Abernathy): So many [private equity firms] for so long have said, “We don't need PR. We're going to stay quiet. We want our deals to speak for themselves.” But now they realize that was when times were good. Now that times are bad and there's misinformation out there, all of a sudden we're starting to see more private equity firms saying “maybe we do need a strategy, we might even need an agency to help shape that.”

Maney (American Capital): The financial expertise that they bring to bear in their day-to-day work lives far outstrips any PR expertise. It wasn't clear that the need was there. To the extent that they have investors, these aren't listed entities by and large. The environment being described here was not something they had to personally deal with. They had limited partners who were sophisticated investors— that's the conversation that they were accustomed to having.

Tangney (Makovsky): We're finding out that a lot of those type of accounts that have not been public, have not had media relations campaigns, have not really been communicating externally, have to go back to square one, especially now with the volatility and the crisis in the market these days. It's an eye-opener to realize how many of those companies are there.

Frankel (JFWBK): And also to add to their reputational risk, parts of these private equity funds have now gone public, yet they don't have the same kind of corporate governance that most public companies have. Their executive compensation is excessive by anyone's standards, so it presents a lot more PR challenges.

O'Brien (PRWeek): What is the C-suite's  and legal counsel's opinion about what IR—and to some extent financial communication— can do? Is there more of a dialogue between those parties about a course of action during critical moments in a corporation's history?

Walkowiak (NexCen): There's certainly a lot of communication when things are going on. The CEO, GC, and IR are working directly on how to do it, and IR is often at odds with GC about how to do things. They want to not say anything, and, of course, you have to get your story out. There are often friendly disagreements about how to do this.

Davies (Kekst): I've been pleasantly surprised [because] I've worked with a number of highly-enlightened lawyers over the last 10 or 20 years. The best lawyers that I've worked with are just about as good at what we do as they are at what they do. They're highly effective and it's a great pleasure to work with people like that.

Stillings (Edelman): They know you need to get the word out and how far you can go and what you need to say. It takes an enlightened CEO to understand the effectiveness of communications and that it's one of the least expensive ways to get your message out there and the importance of an integrated message.

Frankel (JFWBK): Clearly, lawyers and investment bankers have always been helpful to our business because, for the most part, they're sophisticated enough to understand the importance of what we do. And increasingly CEOs also get it.

But we have to have thick skins because in a lot of the situations we're dealing with, particularly in the current environment, there are a bad set of facts and no amount of good PR is going to change that. We have to be sure they don't kill the messenger, but at the same time be able to deliver the bad news and help them craft a communications strategy that at least will help neutralize the opposition [and] try to tell story as best we can. But a lot of it is damage control.

The other consistent theme we all keep saying is the importance of proactive, ongoing communications, not waiting for the crisis to happen to introduce the CEO to The Wall Street Journal.

O'Brien(PRWeek):  Is the C-suite recognizing the opportunities that come with being proactive in 2008?

O'Brien (FD): In this crazy, volatile market, now more than ever you have to understand what's going on in your own business so you can communicate what's next. There's going to be fallout and some won't survive. You want to be the one that's understood.

Sherman (NASDAQ): Everyone doesn't lose either. There's a lot of opportunity in these kinds of economic conditions. So I think you can communicate that where there's tumult, there's also opportunity.

O'Brien (FD): And how do you get from [point] A to [point] B, that's a lot of what we're doing with long-term programming. Explain how you get to the next step. Say you're going to get through this short-term period, but what is the real opportunity for your business. Investors will want to be on that journey.

Tangney (Makovsky): Especially with financial services, the competition has increased so much, there is no differentiation. It's really a necessity for companies to try to get out there, especially in C-suite, to dictate that point of view.

Maney (American Capital): Often there's more than one story. Maybe they have a good story, but there are louder stories or heavier stories. We deal with this every single day. We see opportunity everywhere.

Suvanto (Abernathy): The other thing we're seeing a lot now is companies in transformation or companies in industries in transformation haven't caught up to the fact that everyone they're trying to speak to is looking for something else; they're looking for a different story. A number of companies are saying to us, “Why don't they understand? People just aren't getting it. Our board keeps telling us we have to freshen up our story.”  Things are transforming and a new story is required.

Landsman (Citi Cards): I think you made an interesting point about the lack of differentiation in financial services right now. In addition to looking at diversifying media, [we're] thinking about the channels that we ourselves control in terms of influencing consumer perception.

So if you look at Citi Cards just as a microcosm of Citi, we have over two billion touch points with our customers every year through channels we manage ourselves – whether it's e-mail, our statements, which we completely redesigned based on consumer feedback and regulatory feedback to change perception about how transparent we are with respect to fees, and things like that. [And] it's been a huge win for us in terms of our differentiation with our customer base. Those are the things you can try to leverage a lot more aggressively because they're not available to anyone but us, so it allows us to create differentiation in the marketplace without having to deal with some of the clutter there is when you go out to the broader media.

Frankel (JFWBK): How much are those consumer perceptions affected by the headlines about Citigroup and the credit risk and the CEO transition?

Landsman (Citi Cards): That's a fair question and the answer is, I just don't know. Time will tell.

O'Brien(PRWeek) : With things like SOX and Reg-FD, do you feel like there might be a change in how companies are expected to report or do you feel like there's a comfort in how it's structured now and that's way it's going to be for the immediate future?

Davies (Kekst): My sense is that it's pretty much run its course; people have adapted. I don't hear nearly the complaints I did a couple of years ago. If anything, I think people are more concerned about what the next wave of regulation is going to be.

Maney (American Capital): We've certainly been able to organize internal systems around Reg-FD in a clear, obvious way.

Leggett-Flynn (Brunswick): Reg-FD training is now just part of every investor relations training program

O'Brien (FD): But when you do the training, you realize how it's just ingrained now. You almost feel silly, it's so standard now that it seems weird to be training people because they're so used to it.

O'Brien (PRWeek): When you're looking to fill your ranks, is there a dearth of talent? What do you feel the talent situation is in 2008 and beyond?

Leggett-Flynn (Brunswick): The current turmoil on Wall Street is giving us a lot of opportunity. We just hired a Moody's analyst. There are a lot of financially literate, talented people who are looking for their next move. Our industry is still hiring, we're getting a seat at the table, we're becoming more valuable, [so our] industry is seen as a much more attractive option.

Stillings (Edelman): We've got a lot higher profile and people now get what we do. What's interesting about the job is that it's not just one job. It's financial PR, it's transaction work, it's IPO, its strategic investor relations, [etc].

Suvanto (Abernathy): You see more MBAs in the business both at the client and even agency side where it seems to me that's kind of a new trend. That's because people think of it in a more sophisticated way. You expect more from it, you've got a seat at the table, you're going to be talking to the board, and you need to be trained in a certain way. 

Davies (Kekst): It's rare for us to hire anybody who studied communications. We hire more people with law degrees, MBAs, history, philosophers, [etc].

O'Brien (PRWeek): In times of less tumult, what's the great sell on getting them into your fold? Is the understanding of financial communications is that it's a robust position— that they're jumping into something as interesting or more interesting than what they're doing?

Stillings (Edelman):  I think it's an integrated, interesting field. You're dealing with the CFO, the general counsel, CEO; you don't get any higher. It's an interesting point of entry into a company. It's finance, law, and communications all rolled into one.

Frankel (JFWBK): Another selling point on agency side is the diversity of the experience you get: M&A, proxy fights, investor relations, media relations, PR, and also the diversity of the clients, all different kinds of industries. That's an advantage for a junior person to go on the agency side.

Davies (Kekst): More attractive than the money is the intellectual challenge. No matter how long you're in this profession, you're still going to see things you haven't seen before; you're going to be forced to think of things you've never thought of before.

For the people that are coming from different industries, what's the biggest awakening about what you do? What takes the longest to teach them about your role in the overall corporate environment?

Stillings (Edelman): The speed and pace of direct response.

Davies (Kekst): People who have not really spent much time thinking about this profession, there's a preconception —an unfair one— that public relations is about papering over things, making things look better than what they were. There comes as a blinding recognition that frequently what is referred to as a PR problem is really a business problem. You've got to attack the problem at its root. You have to take the hard steps to build the reality which then enables you to have an effective communications message.

Leggett-Flynn (Brunswick): The level of strategic engagement that we have.

O'Brien (FD): That's another selling point for this role. We've all seen it where you say to a CEO, “You can't tell that story because it won't work” and they change their business based on what you tell them.

Frankel (JFWBK): One of the things I try to impress upon junior people is that while you have to do things fast, a lot of the materials we're developing are sensitive and have a major impact. We're dealing with other people's money, and that one paragraph press release may move the market in 10 minutes, so you better make sure that every single digit is correct.

Suvanto (Abernathy): As strange as it sounds, the big eye opener for people is that you have to read all the papers. If you don't, you won't have anything to say. It takes a while for people to become news junkies.

Landsman (Citi Cards): And the key analysts, especially in financial services because it's so opinion-forming. There are six analysts that I read religiously and it's the price of entry.

Suvanto (Abernathy): Maybe people saw the article in New York magazine about the death of newspapers. Ten years from now, let's say there are half as many newspapers as there are today. Does that change our business? Or is there a possibility that our business is in transition? Is there a longer-term trend that there is less credible news and does that lean us toward less of a role? The easy answer is that there's more of a role. But what's the long-term trend?

Tangney (Makovsky): I think it's just going to make our jobs even more crucial. The creativity needed to build that story, to layer that story, not to tell the same thing but to [different media outlets] but to develop different angles. 

Landsman (Citi Cards): I think you have a slightly tethered idea of what a credible news source is, because I think that will evolve as well. Credibility is in the eye of the beholder. If there is a large enough set of relevant stakeholders who believe a source to be credible, it is.  

O'Brien (PRWeek): Are there going to be more Jonathan Schwartzes out there? More publicly traded CEOs breaking the news on his or her blog?

Frankel (JFWBK): I think it was headed in that direction but we had two things happen: John Mackey from Whole Foods got into a lot of trouble for anonymously blogging; and Carl Icahn said he's going to do it, he established a Web site, and the last I heard he hadn't done it yet partly [because] his lawyers wouldn't let him.

Suvanto (Abernathy): New media is such a big thing in tech. You sit around the table with other people and they say, “Does it matter to me?”  Will it overflow and begin to populate everywhere else? Or is it just going to be certain industries?

Stillings (Edelman): I have a futuristic question: How many exchanges will there be and how will that affect disclosure?

Sherman (NASDAQ): There's a view that there's going to be three to four, but we think there's going to be a lot of exchanges still. One, because there's still a very nationalistic sense around exchanges. Two, we believe in competition. In the European market, they're version is coming up now, which they call MTF (Multilateral Trading Facilities). We saw the US market eat the ECNs (Electronic Communications Networks) - we bought one, our competitor bought one - and they sprang up again. We think there's always going to be a lot of exchanges.

When you're talking about disclosure, you're abutting 24-hour trading and we think that's a long way off. It's hard to overcome time zone. People want to trade in their own time zone, that's when the market is most liquid. People don't even want to trade after hours. We offered it and our customers aren't much interested in trading much after four.

Frankel (JFWBK): The other topic for us: from crisis comes opportunity. There's a huge opportunity because of a lack of credibility now in financial institutions and financial markets in general. The government is trying to respond to it, companies are trying to respond. It's bad for a lot of companies, it's bad for investors, but ultimately, it's good for the public relations business.

Tangney (Makovsky): It's like we're back in 2001 [where] rebuilding trust was really the mantra.

Leggett-Flynn (Brunswick): It's the truism of crisis communications that's actually where great reputations are built. If you've actually taken your company through a serious tumultuous period and you come through on the other side, that's where people remember who you are and what you did.

The participants:

Thomas Davies, partner, Kekst & Co.

Steve Frankel, partner, Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher

Liza Landsman, SVP of customer engagement, Citi Cards

Cindy Leggett-Flynn, partner, Brunswick Group

Brian Maney, director or corporate communications, American Capital Strategies

Cara O'Brien, MD of capital markets practice, FD

Bethany Sherman, SVP of corporate communications, NASDAQ

Susan Stillings, EVP and global MD of financial communications, Edelman

Lex Suvanto, MD of operations and strategy, Abernathy MacGregor Group

Scott Tangney, EVP of the financial services group, Makovsky + Company

William Walkowiak, SVP of IR, NexCen

Key points:

The financial industry is slowly embracing new media.

A greater consumer interest in financial issues is changing the way companies communicate.

Print media is still the main way to build thought leadership in the financial industry.

In the current climate, financial companies have to be even more proactive in their media outreach.

Layoffs on Wall Street are resulting in a new crop of talent for agency employment.

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