A high-flying PR success story

 
Kathleen Brooks
A DEGREE in law couldn’t stifle Anthony Payne, the founder of Peregrine Communications, from unleashing his entrpreneurial spirit. Even when he was completing articles – the early stages of legal training – he took time out to start a pizza delivery business called Moonlight Munchies.

Skip forward a couple of decades and Payne is eating lunch at the Ivy Club, just off the Strand. He founded his own financial PR firm Peregrine Communications in 2003. The Ivy is his favourite haunt for business, the Groucho club is for fun, he says as he digs into a fish pie. And he is optimistic about the future: “It’s imperative now, especially since the financial crisis, that financial firms are good at messaging.”

He soon ditched his law career: “I knew I could never compete with double first Oxbridge types as I don’t have a head for detail.” That’s when he moved to PR, honing his craft at some of the world’s largest firms in the 1980s and 1990s, including Burson-Marsteller where he worked in Hong Kong for its financial services division, eventually heading up its Thailand branch. He returned from Asia in 1994.

Back home, Payne persuaded Hill & Knowlton to set up a financial PR division that he went on to head for three years. Then in 2003 he went back to his entrepreneurial roots. He didn’t choose the easiest environment in which to start Peregrine. The internet bubble had burst and 9/11 had happened sparking a mini-recession: “It was a terrifying time to start. I had two children at boarding school so I had to get work.” He credits three people for his initial success: Tim Weller, CEO of Incisive Media; Robin Bowie, head of Dexion Capital and Christian Yates, CEO of investment bank Julius Baer. They all let his firm bid for business when it was in its infancy. “I was operating the business from one room in my home, but those initial accounts gave me great encouragement.” From the start, Payne decided to specialise in the alternatives space, particularly hedge funds, private equity and renewables.

Although he says that he went into financial PR because it requires less brains than other careers in the City, don’t be fooled. He applied laser-like focus to setting up Peregrine: “Contracts were always quarterly in advance since cash is absolutely critical.” The firm now has eleven staff in its London office.

His advice for budding entrepreneurs is simple: don’t set up with a partner on day one and don’t give away equity in the business – instead incentivise via profit share. “I always remember the Clint Eastwood line from Magnum Force: ‘A man’s got to know his limitations.’ But if you do that, then the world conspires to help you achieve things.”

CV | ANTHONY PAYNE

Age: 48
Born: Kenya
Lives: Battersea, London with his wife, Tanya Layzell-Payne, the owner of Gerber PR, and two teenage sons.
Car you drive: Pashley motorbike, Golf GTI
Reading: Churchill: A biography, by Roy Jenkins
Peregrine has representatives in nine countries. Thinking globally comes naturally to Payne. His great-grandfather moved to Kenya in 1910: “We know all about emerging markets.”