The last few months have seen international networks like
Burson-Marsteller and Edelman PR Worldwide taking steps to boost the
strength of their London PR operations. To date, with the exception of
Shandwick, none have been able to seize the high ground in UK financial
This has traditionally been dominated by financial PR agencies without
international networks, but with large local operations, such as
Brunswick and Financial Dynamics.
In September, with this in mind, Burson-Marsteller recruited Gavin
Anderson senior director Adrian Shaw to a new post, to head financial
relations across its 17 European offices.
Shandwick is widely held to have lacked muscle in the City since losing
Chris Matthews, chief executive of its financial PR operation, last
Following a major reorganisation, Shandwick is understood to be hunting
again for a heavyhitting financial consultant.
Edelman, which has nine offices in Europe, succeeded last week in
recruiting its own heavyhitter, Kirsty Macmaster, a founder of investor
relations consultancy Frew Macmaster.
These agencies are hoping that European financial integration will give
them an advantage over strong local operators in competing for
But there is a question over whether international networks or local
operators, most of whom are based in London, Europe’s most sophisticated
financial PR market, are best-placed to take on pan-European financial
The merger of Citigate and Dewe Rogerson has created an agency which
combines a strong London presence with a spread of offices in the
world’s financial centres which could soon rival that of the established
The firm already has financial PR offices in New York, Hong Kong and
Kevin Soady, MD of international business at Citigate Dewe Rogerson
says: ’It is important to have domestic area of expertise but increased
international links are useful in certain markets.’
Macmaster is joining an operation which does not compete with the likes
of Financial Dynamics for UK clients, and mostly handles UK financial
work for international clients, like Chase Manhattan Bank and Bank of
Austria. She does not see Edelman developing as a direct competitor to
large UK firms for lucrative mergers and acquisitions work, but wants to
make sure the agency is poised to pick up business from companies
needing to communicate with investors in more than one European
Macmaster believes the big investors, like pension firms, will
eventually want to hold shares listed in pan-European indices, rather
than single country indices like the FTSE 100. This will force not only
UK, but German and French companies, for example, to use PR to
communicate with investors and the media across Europe.
This year London, Frankfurt, Madrid, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and
Brussels all agreed to the development of a pan-European stock
According to Shandwick director Andrew Best: ’The pan-European stock
exchange will eventually replace the current exchange.’Once the exchange
is up and running, he believes agencies with offices across Europe will
be best placed to handle large flotations.
Financial Dynamics director Hugh Morrison maintains that despite these
planned changes, London will retain its position as the largest equity
market centre in Europe for some time to come.
’London’s financial pre-eminence won’t disappear overnight and even if
there is a European stock exchange it will allow foreign stocks to be
traded for a long while yet,’ says Morrison.
Financial Dynamics bought itself out from its French-run network, BDDP,
earlier this year and remains unaffiliated to any other network. It
operates solely out of London, but counts several European clients on
its books including Dutch bank ABN Amro. Morrison acknowledges the
growing likelihood of Euro-exchanges but says that agencies need not be
driven by this fact.
’Agencies that have no worldwide offices but are strongly affiliated
with independent companies can guarantee quality control. We are winning
business hand over fist from larger companies with large networks
because we can pick companies which are tailored to suit the client’s
However, international networks argue that it is harder to guarantee the
quality of an affiliate which is not wholly owned by the agency.
Some PR practitioners believe changes in Europe will require companies
to communicate on a pan-European basis on day-to-day issues.
The introduction of a single European currency will create a new market
with 300 million customers. More companies will find themselves in
competition with each other, and consumers will be able to compare
This could lead to more day-to-day pan-European corporate and consumer
In building up their London offices, international networks like
Burson-Marsteller and Edelman are unlikely to find themselves competing
successfully for the larger UK clients with local needs. But they will
be well placed to snap up the pan-European work that is likely to be
generated as the single market takes shape.