Finsbury UK: Agency Business Report 2015

Mergers and acquisitions keep the WPP agency global and going places

Roland Rudd: Chair, Finsbury
Roland Rudd: Chair, Finsbury

Principals: Roland Rudd, chair; Michael Gross, global CEO
Ownership: WPP
Offices: Global 12; Uk 1
Revenues: Global $70m-$100m (£48m-£68m); UK £26.5m (estimate)
Headcount: Global 206; UK 80

Finsbury declined to take part in an on-the-record interview for its UK/EMEA profile. However, unconfirmed reports suggest that 2014 was a strong year, with the performance in the UK possibly its best ever.

Although Finsbury did not provide comparative figures, the agency said global revenues increased in 2014 as it "continued to develop its global influence", ranging from $70m (£48m) to $100m (£68m).

Such performance appears to have had little major impact, good or bad, on its parent company WPP. Finsbury was not mentioned once in WPP’s 47-page 2014 results announcement (although, to be fair, the PR business overall accounts for just ten per cent of revenue at the global advertising and marcoms giant).

In its submission to PRWeek, Finsbury named the UK/EMEA as its top-performing region, ahead of the US and Asia-Pacific.

The agency played a role in one of the biggest attempted corporate takeovers in recent times during 2014, assisting AstraZeneca’s comms team in its £69bn defense of a takeover bid by US drugs company Pfizer. Finsbury has held the account since 2011.

In terms of the UK, which accounts for roughly 40 per cent of the agency’s global income, major account wins have included AIG, BAE Systems, Chinese online shopping giant Alibaba, metals manufacturer Alcoa and mobile telecoms business Qualcomm.

Account losses in the year included Centrica, hibu (formerly Yell Group) and International Personal Finance.

More generally, Finsbury appears to be benefiting from the return of M&A activity, with major assignments during 2014 involving Toyota, Aviva, United Health Group, Sky and Reed Elsevier.

The agency says it increased its focus on growing its M&A practice in 2014, hiring former FTI Consulting senior managing director Kal Goldberg as a partner to help expand this function.

Finsbury points to the fact it was named PR Firm of the Year for 2014 by Mergermarket, the mergers and acquisitions intelligence and data service, as evidence of the strength of its M&A specialism.

Building on this part of the business is a key priority for Finsbury over the coming year, particularly in North America.

IPOs have been less of a focus than M&A work during 2014. Nevertheless, Finsbury has worked on the flotations of Citizens Financial Group, Old Mutual Asset Management, renewable energy firm Infinis, Canadian gold prospector Dalradian and financial information services provider Markit.

In common with many other agencies, Finsbury has been beefing up its digital and social media capabilities. It has brought in three extra staff with specific expertise in this area in the past couple of years.

Last year, the agency reverted to the Finsbury name, dropping the previous title of RLM Finsbury that it had used since merging with US corporate PR firm Robinson Lerer & Montgomery in 2011.

"The Finsbury brand resonates globally, while RLM was under the radar," agency partner Ed Adler said last year. "The rebrand is a true reflection of what the company is now: a global integrated communications firm."

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