Cognito hires Rowan Benecke as US president

He was most recently chief growth officer at Ruder Finn.

Cognito has hired Rowan Benecke as U.S. president.

NEW YORK: Cognito has hired Ruder Finn and BCW alum Rowan Benecke as U.S. president.

Benecke joined the financial communications specialty shop on September 29 and reports to global CEO Tom Coombes. He has four direct reports, runs operations at the company’s New York and Los Angeles offices and also sits on Cognito’s global executive team. The firm also has offices in London, Singapore, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

The former manager of Cognito’s U.S. presence, chief business officer Vivienne Hsu, will be heading back to the agency’s U.K. offices, Coombes said. 

“We sent her off the continent to the U.S. for a couple of years to build the business up and improve its alignment with the rest of the group,” Coombes said. “She’s completed that assignment and is returning to the U.K.”

Coombes said the agency was attracted to Benecke’s core communications competency, his experience adding social and digital to that corporate comms offering and his international experience. 

Benecke said he accepted the offer because of Cognito’s tight focus on financial, tech and professional services clients, its independence (it’s not a part of a holding company) and its approach to business development. 

“For me, the big exciting part is their attitude towards growth,” Benecke said. “Cognito wants to invest in growth and has a plan that it can implement and realize that growth.”

And in fact, Coombes said, his agency weathered the pandemic and is now in a position to realize those ambitions. 

Cognito saw an initial 20% dip in revenue around April and May, largely from a pandemic-caused drop in project work, he said. But the retained or AOR business was largely unaffected, he added, and Cognito should end up matching 2019 revenue levels and end the year on an upward trajectory. 

“[There is] a lot of headroom to grow across the U.S.,” Coombes explained.

To realize the growth, Benecke said he plans to upsell existing digital clients on Cognito’s corp comms offering, sell a more integrated offering to new clients and “down the line” expand into new categories via acquisitions.

Benecke had been chief growth officer at Ruder Finn but departed the company in July, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was hired at Ruder in September of 2018, a month after he left BCW. He served as global technology chair at Burson, which he joined in 2014 after leaving Text100, where Benecke was EVP and regional director for North America.

Separately, Cognito named former Alcoa and Siemens executive Jack Bergen to its board of directors and promoted Benjamin Thiele-Long to head of its West Coast operations.  

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