Telum Talks To... Ben Richardson, Head of Asia, Finsbury Glover Hering
Telum caught up with Ben Richardson about the recently completed merger to create Finsbury Glover Hering, and the firm’s plans for the future.
The announcement of the merger for Finsbury Glover Hering happened at the beginning of July, but the idea has been around for years, what was the rationale to merge now and what will it bring to your clients?
Finsbury has been working side by side with the Glover Park Group and Hering Schuppener on cross-border critical situations for over three years now, but the three-way merger formalizes the collaboration in all kinds of operational ways that will ultimately benefit our clients. We will be more seamless, more nimble, more global. The Glover Park Group has been the leading public affairs firm in Washington DC and our colleagues also do advocacy and lobbying, which is of great interest to our Chinese and Asian clients in today’s charged political environment. Likewise, we can offer public affairs support in China to the MNCs who already work with GPG. Hering Schuppener’s European clients have been working with Finsbury’s team in Asia for years, so the merger will simply cement and simplify the way we work. We have already received overwhelmingly positive feedback from clients since our initial announcement in July, and most have already experienced working with us as one firm. After the merger, Finsbury Glover Hering will offer a global network of nearly 700 consultants in 18 offices in the world’s major financial, government, business and cultural centres. It’s a powerful mix, especially at a time when global volatility is so high and companies are facing a huge number of issues and opportunities.
What will change, both internally and externally, now that the merger has been completed?
Finsbury Glover Hering is built for this moment. We can now deploy all of our combined resources to give stronger, more seamless and integrated support to our clients. We will also be able to provide expertise and services that cover all industries and at the same time supplement our core strength of strategic communications advisory across new and existing disciplines, including Business Transformation, Corporate Reputation & Leadership Strategies, Crisis & Issues Management, Government Relations, Transaction & Financial Communications, Policy & Advocacy Digital Strategy, Design & Creative and Research & Insights. From an internal point of view, we are formally implementing what has long been a reality for us, especially in Asia; a global mindset that operates across borders and teams. What doesn’t change is our focus on delivering excellent work for our clients and being seen as their trusted advisor.
In the lead up to the completion of the merger, there have been some big hires in Hong Kong in 2020, what plans do you have for Hong Kong and Asia?
We are ambitious in our goals and I don’t think we need to be modest about wanting to be the best at what we do. In order to achieve that, we don’t need to be everywhere, but we do need to have industry leaders and experts in key markets in Asia. In Tokyo, we have Deborah Hayden and Minako Hattori as Partners, with Daniel Bogler, the former Financial Times managing editor, as a Senior Advisor. In Hong Kong, we have Paul Yang, as Partner and China head; Richard Barton, Partner and Asia capital markets lead; and Ginny Wilmerding, Partner and TMT sector lead and ESG practice lead. Going forward, we expect to grow and add to the Finsbury Glover Hering teams across Asia, both at a senior and core team level. We are optimistic about the outlook for Asia as it recovers from the pandemic and as China-US relations hopefully get on a better footing, and we will continue to add the right expertise at the right time.
What are some key themes and trends in the industry that you are looking forward to in 2021, especially in Asia?
I think we are all looking forward to emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been tough and tragic for so many people. From a business point of view, the pandemic has accelerated a lot of changes and we expect those to continue. ESG and the way companies, consumers and investors engage on the topic will be a defining trend. The questions about how a company operates and treats its staff and customers has never been more relevant. The shift towards a more digital economy will continue, changing industries from banking and asset management, to gaming and leisure, to agriculture and retail. This is one area where Asia has been a leader and is likely to keep pushing ahead. And we expect to see Mainland China continue to develop as a domestic market, pushed in large part by a tricky geopolitical climate and the changing spending habits of its local population. Outside these trends, there will be an increasing need for companies to engage in more open and transparent ways with their audiences and that’s where we, as Finsbury Glover Hering, can have a central role to play.