SEC Newgate freezes recruitment and considers government support schemes

SEC Newgate has paused new hires and is looking into a range of programmes for employers in its various markets, but does not plan to furlough staff, PRWeek has learned. The group has appointed a new CFO, who will join in June.

Emma Kane says SEC Newgate staff have been kept busy during the pandemic
Emma Kane says SEC Newgate staff have been kept busy during the pandemic

The global communications group – whose agencies include Newgate, Newington, Publicasity and 2112 – said all its 600-plus workforce has been working from home after an “exceptionally strong” start to the year.

“Newgate has not furloughed any staff – at the moment, all are being kept busy. We have put on hold any new hires that were factored into the budget for the year ahead until we get greater clarity as no one knows how long this will last,” SEC Newgate deputy group CEO and Newgate UK chief executive Emma Kane told PRWeek.

“Now we have around 600 staff working successfully from home and we are being creative and innovative in the ways we are helping our clients navigate these new, choppy waters. COVID-19 will have an impact on our business but we are working hard to minimise the effect on our business, clients and team.”

SEC Newgate has 31 offices in 15 countries. Although the group is not looking to furlough staff through the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Kane said it is considering a range of other employer support schemes in different markets.

These include HMRC time to pay arrangements, business interruption loan schemes, Statutory Sick Pay relief, deferring VAT payments, and others.

SEC Newgate was adapting to the new business environment by focusing resources “where they will have the greatest return on investment”, Kane said.

“For example, Newgate in the UK has launched a daily newsletter, Newgate News; we have a comprehensive training programme which is now being conducted over Zoom, we have launched initiatives such as virtual Investor Access Meetings and online Planning Consultation Events,” she explained.

“These are replacing spend that we had in our plans for physical events, sponsorship, printed brochures, internal team events, entertaining, and so on.”

The group has been continuing to win new business “since all the madness started”, she added.

“In Italy, for example, the teams have won significant numbers of crisis management briefs,” she said.

“In terms of how the group is managing the situation, we have recently completed a €2.5m convertible bond issue and renegotiated a €3m bank facility, coupled with a very strong start to the first quarter of 2020, so we are in a good position.”

SEC Newgate has also appointed a new group CFO. Sergio Penna will replace Federico Vecchio, who is stepping down at the end of June for “personal reasons”.

Penna’s most recent role was finance director at MotorK, which provides IT solutions to the automotive industry.

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