City & Corporate: Barclays calls review of reputation

Banking Barclays appoints Penn, Schoen & Berland for perception study as sector emerges from credit crisis.

Barclays has launched an international perception study to gauge views on its reputation as the financial sector recovers from last year's banking crisis.

The bank has charged Mark Penn, CEO of Burson-Marsteller, and his polling firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB) with managing a review of stakeholder opinion on the reputation of Barclays and the wider banking industry.

A spokeswoman at Barclays confirmed the appointment and said: 'We have appointed PSB to work on a standalone project researching perceptions of banks among key audiences post-credit crunch.'

PSB will report to Barclays' group corporate affairs department, headed by Howell James.

This week the major players in the UK banking industry released their first-half results. On Monday Barclays and HSBC revealed combined profits of almost £6bn.

The positive results have once again raised the spectre of bonuses in the newspapers, with critics rounding on the sector for learning no lessons from the banking crisis.

But Barclays seems set to escape the worst of the flak. Most criticism centres on those institutions partly owned by the public purse, further legitimising the bank's decision to resist public money.

Barclays declined to comment further on PSB's brief, but it is understood the project will look at perceptions of the bank's consumer and corporate messaging. The work is also believed to involve multiple jurisdictions, given Barclays' purchase of Lehman Brothers' core assets last year.

The bank denied the work amounted to a communications audit, insisting it was a general perception study.

It also made it clear that the brief had no impact on its existing relationships. The bank has worked closely with retained financial adviser Brunswick for well over a decade.

Brunswick itself was handed a project brief to oversee a communications review among stakeholders for state-owned Northern Rock in February this year. Following the work, Brunswick was handed the bank's retained financial PR account, replacing then incumbent FD in June.

Agency sources felt a similar scenario where Burson-Marsteller edged out Brunswick following the review was unlikely. One senior agency source felt B-M would not have the 'capacity', while others pointed to the relationship Brunswick boss Alan Parker retains with the Barclays board.


Northern Rock - Brunswick won Northern Rock's financial comms account from FD in June

RBS - Handed financial comms account to RBS in March 2009 without a pitch. RBS previously used FD

Lloyds Banking Group - The combined Lloyds and HBOS group initiated a review in March 2009 in which incumbent Finsbury declined to participate. M: Communications won a four-way pitch, beating Tulchan Communications, Citigate Dewe Rogerson and Bell Pottinger

HSBC - Launched a review of its agency relationships in December 2008. Remains with incumbent Maitland.

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