Corporate & Financial Consultancies of the Year 2019 | Holmes Report
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2019 Corporate & Financial Consultancies of the Year

The 2019 Asia-Pacific PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 125 submissions and meetings with the best PR firms across the region. 

Consultancy of the Year winners are announced and honoured at the 2019 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, which take place on 12 September in Singapore. Analysis of all Finalists and Winners can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below:

Winner: Cannings Purple (Australia/WPP)

The past few years have seen sustained growth for WPP’s Cannings Purple in Australia, where its 40-person headcount marks it out as one of the country’s biggest corporate consultancies. Focusing largely on investor relations and public affairs in Western Australia from its Perth HQ, the firm added a Brisbane office last year, underlining an expansionary mindset by developing multiple new service offerings including a new content hub, hiring a chief innovation officer and overhauling its data insights and community engagement teams. The firm remains by chaired by experienced Australian businessman Keith Jones and CEO Annette Ellis, who oversee a culture that continues to focus heavily on culture and an emphasis on family.

The firm’s continued growth, up 20% in 2018 to A$7.6m reflects the success of its offering, which handles major corporate mandates for such clients as LandCorp, BGC Australia, Gold Road Resources, Murdoch University, Northern Minerals, Shell Australia and Aeris Resources, along with new assignments for Rio Tinto, RAC WA, South 32, Rod Jones, Pitcher Partners, Iris Residential and Fortescue Metals Group. And while Cannings Purple’s continues to lead the M&A tables, much of its work involves high-stakes crisis communications, issues management and public policy — supported by increased thought leadership investment in such areas as cybersecurity and aged care. 

Campaign highlights, meanwhile, included supporting the $91.5m Matagarup Bridge project, providing probono support to Noongar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australia’s first culturally-based Chamber of Commerce, and successfully lobbying for Northern Minerals against a a proposed federal government cap on research and development rebates. The firm also advised Jupiter Mines on its ASX listing and equity capital raising, and mounted a successful multi-faceted campaign on behalf of the Western Rock Lobster Council. — AS

Finalists

Citadel-Magnus (Australia/Independent)

In 2008 three partners, Peter Brookes, Martin Debelle and Helen McCombie, opened Citadel in Sydney, with a focus on advising clients around transaction communication and issues management. In 2009, John Gardner opened MAGNUS, specialising in investor relations and corporate communication in Sydney and Perth. In 2015 the firms merged to create Citadel-MAGNUS, which now has a team of 22 employees.

The consultancy had fee income of A$5.4 million last year, against a background of business and capital markets uncertainty in the lead-up to this spring’s New South Wales State Election and Federal Election, with stagnation in the M&A and IPO sectors falling away. However, the firm’s strategy of pivoting the business towards providing ASX-listed companies with outsourced investor relations support helped insulate it against this lull in deal flow. It also introduced a “special situations” practice, covering areas such as crisis preparedness and management, data breaches, product recalls, litigation and restructuring.

Since the Federal poll, which resulted in the re-election of the business-friendly Coalition Government, sentiment has improved and Citadel-MAGNUS has seen a significant pick-up in work, including a number of mandates relating to corporate transactions, capital raisings, corporate strategy, industry/regulatory and reputational matters. Director-level hires over the year included former banking strategist Nyomi Horgan, and Shell Australia’s external relations manager Paul Ryan.

Citadel-MAGNUS performs consistently well in the Asia-Pacific Mergermarket League Tables, ranking fourth by deal count and ninth by deal value in the 2018 PR Advisors League Table for Asia-Pacific Region (excluding Japan), making it Australia’s leading transaction communication firm for the fourth consecutive year. — MPS

Honner (Australia/Independent)

A veteran of UK corporate specialist Fishburn and Australian institutional investment journal Super Review, and of the UK and Australian banking sector, Philippa Honner launched her consultancy in 1997 and has built it into Australia’s leading financial services agency, working with companies from fintech start-ups to listed investment firms and major funds.

Key clients include big-four banks National Australia Bank, CBA, $70 billion superannuation fund UniSuper, the world’s largest listed hedge fund Man Group and leading global fund managers, Janus Henderson, Lazard Asset Management, AXA and Nuveen.

Last year continued a healthy growth trend, with a team of 20 generating fee income of just shy of $4m, representing 10% growth year-on-year in one of the most turbulent periods ever for Australia’s financial services sector, with a number of enquiries taking place into conduct and practices. New clients included Earlytrade, which partners with ASX100 corporates to provide greater flexibility around their working capital management, and Impact Investment Group, a leading Australian impact investment funds manager focused on shifting capital towards investments that blend financial returns with deep social and environmental impact.

The agency also sought to further enhance its offer to clients, including partnerships with digital agency Spark Green and specialist government relations firm Advisory Street, and bringing a creativity expert in to develop its strategy for delivering greater creative insights to clients. Honner was a founding member of the Global Fintech PR Network, is a longtime member of the Global Communication Partners network, and in 2017 joined PROI and opened a New York office. New people joining the team in 2018 included Craig Morris, hired from Seattle firm Russell Investments to the newly-created role of head of marketing solutions.

Highlights of Honner’s client work in 2018 included the successful launch of CreditSmart, an information website from the Australian Retail Credit Association (ARCA) to help consumers understand mandatory credit reporting. – MPS


Newgate
(Porta)

From M&A to IR to strategic corporate communications, Newgate is now firmly established in the front rank of Asia-Pacific consultancies. For all the upheaval at parent company Porta over the past year or so, from losing leaders to merging agency brands, it is reasonable to claim that the Asia-Pacific region has been the most consistently successful part of the operation.

The firm launched in Hong Kong in early 2013, under the leadership of former Kreab Gavin Anderson exec Richard Barton, tapped another KGA veteran Terrence Foo to expand into Singapore a few months later, recruited a team of 20 from Gavin Anderson to launch in Australia the same year, expanded into mainland China with a Beijing office in 2014, and added a Shanghai presence under Asia-Pacific co-founder Grace Zhang last year. Much of that leadership team is still in place—Barton, Australian managing director Brian Tyson, Foo, and Sue Vercoe, who leads the research group out of Sydney—and were joined last year by 25-year veteran Raj Seth as partner in Hong Kong and Clarence Fu, who brings two decades of corporate and financial experience to Singapore.

The Asia-Pacific operation contributed about $20 million of Newgate’s global 2018 PR fee income of $32 million – around the same income but representing a higher proportion of the business than the previous year – with new work coming from Alphabet-subsidiary Wing and Cross River Rail in Australia, Nestle and social e-commerce app Pinduoduo in China, and Jacobs Douwe Egberts in Singapore. — MPS


Redhill Communications (Singapore/Independent)

While many new firms measure themselves against bigger, more established players, Redhill CEO Jacob Puthenparambil likes to use a diffferent template to explain the rapid growth that has characterised his firm since it launched in 2014. Namely, the Jesuit Order, which created a multinational organisation for 500 years — and is now a surprising source of inspiration for business schools. Redhill may not quite inspire the same religious fervour among its clients, but its focus on creating a shared mission for its entrepreneurial expansion has seen it develop a network of 70 professionals across 17 cities in 11 countries. 

That performance helped the firm rank as the third fastest-growing agency in the world in 2018, doubling its revenue to more than SGD$3.1m across corporate, financial and technology clients in Singapore, Yangon, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Min City, Sydney, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta, Kochi, Berlin. All of which reflects the tenet around which Redhill was created — that brand communications should be generated by local teams who understand their markets best.

Before launching Redhill in 2014, Puthenparambil had held communications positions with Government of India’s Ministry for External Affairs, ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller in the Middle East, and the UN’s MUrgency global response network in San Francisco. Partner Surekha Yadav, meanwhile, has a background that spans software development and finance. And the firm recently brought onboard former Reserve Bank of India comms head Alpana Kilawalla as senior advisor.

With its offices in key hubs like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Colombo,  Redhill’s reach across Southeast Asia means on-the-ground services for a roster of clients including some the region’s largest venture capital firms. Other high-profile additions to its client roster last year include Nokia, Mundipharma, CGH Earth, Emirates India, Volvo Malaysia, Carro and FWD. And 95% of Redhill’s staff is under 30, helping explain the agency’s integration of technology across its client servicing model. — AS