Revealed: The City’s most influential financial PRs

David Hellier
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Roland Rudd triumphs in City A.M’s poll of top journalists

Roland Rudd, the senior partner and co-founder of RLM Finsbury has been voted the City’s most influential public relations executive for the third time in a row by a poll of city editors and senior business jounalists interviewed by City A.M.

Rudd, whose firm advises 22 FTSE 100 companies including Glencore and Sainsbury, has recently stepped in to counsel Starbucks on its UK tax issues and Bumi on its controversial and passionate investor battle against Nat Rothschild, a former client. Rudd scored 41 points out of a possible 75.

Rudd beat Alan Parker, Brunswick’s supremo, into second place, the same ranking as when we last did a poll. Parker, arguably the originator of the modern financial public relations business, has been busy growing Brunswick into a global player. But he is still a power player in London where Brunswick enjoys a leading position. Parker gained 28 points.

Rudd’s continued pre-eminence in a poll of London journalists no doubt reflects his enormous appetite for networking. His 50th birthday party a couple of years ago at his home in Somerset was attended by a Who’s Who list of business leaders and business journalists from the City, including James Murdoch, Sir Roger Carr, and Lord Rothermere.

A recent merger with the New York-based RLM has not significantly diverted Rudd’s London focus.

In third place is Andrew Grant, the founder of Tulchan, who is catching up with the first two in terms of points scored.

Grant has been in the news lately for losing the Marks & Spencer account after an eight-year period after a leak ahead of the retailer’s recent annual results. That set-back, though, should not overshadow the progress the group has made, with clients now including Lloyds Bank, Standard Life, Rexam and Petrofac. Grant has positioned the firm as a capital market communicator and has deliberately not gone down the more political, public affairs route chosen by some of his rivals.

In our last poll, now nearly five years ago, Lady (Patience) Wheatcroft, then city editor of the Times, said that “whenever [she] knew Roland Rudd or Alan Parker were on the phone, she knew it was worth taking”. If she was still in journalism today, it seems highly plausible that Grant would now be afforded similar weighting.

Other big beasts of the public relations world to feature in our poll include Neil Bennett of Maitland in fourth place, just six points behind Grant. Bennett, a former city editor at the Sunday Telegraph, now boasts a number of heavyweight clients including Vodafone, Standard Chartered,Wonga and Schroders. He is also City A.M.’s wine critic.

An in-house public relations man comes in at fifth place, Stephen Doherty, of Barclays Bank. While in-house public relations execs are rarely deemed as influential as the agency equivalents, who speak for many different clients, Doherty’s presence on the list is indicative of the tough year that Barclays has had as well as the undoubted respect he clearly cultivates amongst some senior journalists.

Rory Godson, another former journalist and the founder of Powerscourt, comes in at sixth place.

The top six on our list are stand outs in terms of votes they received, and there are then a number of pr executives who got single or a couple of votes.

So we have included a separate list to mention everyone that was voted for.

Notably, just one woman – Shakila Ahmed of Travelodge – was nominated by our panel members, despite the fact that financial public relations agencies tend to take on women in healthy numbers.

The industry will be hoping that this changes in the years ahead.

1 Roland Rudd, RLM Finsbury

Roland Rudd has won the City A.M. poll of financial journalists for the third time in succession. Rudd, a former journalist and the son of a City stockbroker, has developed over the years a vast network of business leaders, bankers and politicians. His energy for contact-building and networking knows no bounds.

The company he founded, Finsbury, has since been absorbed into Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP Group, and more recently merged with US partner RLM.

Clients include Centrica, RBS, Glencore, BSkyB and Sainsbury.

Rudd is also chairman of Britain for New Europe, a pro-EU lobbying group.

Points total 41.

2 Alan Parker, Brunswick

Alan Parker was the doyen of financial public relations executives in London before Roland Rudd set up Finsbury in the 1990s. He has built Brunswick into a truly international firm and as a consequence is less focused on London. Despite that, financial journalists still rate him highly and it is no surprise he has been hard to dislodge from second place in our poll.

Points total 28.

3 Andrew Grant, Tulchan

Andrew Grant has significantly improved his approval rating with business journalists since our last poll, despite his firm recently losing the Marks & Spencer account. Grant is a former Brunswick star who left to set up his own agency, Tulchan, which is now in third place for FTSE 100 clients behind Brunswick and RLM Finsbury.

Points total 20.

4 Neil Bennett, Maitland

Neil Bennett has been Maitland’s chief executive since 2010. He joined from Gavin Anderson as managing partner in 2004, and leads a number of the firm’s accounts. Prior to that, he spent 18 years as an editor, columnist, broadcaster and journalist, including seven as the city editor of the Sunday Telegraph and he was a member of the Telegraph’s management board.

Points total 14.

5 Stephen Doherty, Barclays

Stephen Doherty leads Barclays’ corporate comms, having joined from Diageo last year. His appointment was seen as a reflection of the bank’s desire to provide a robust voice in the high-profile regulatory debates around the global financial services industry. With Barclays embroiled in both the Libor and PPI scandals, he couldn’t have chosen a more challenging role.

Points total 9.

Doherty is currently director of comms at Diageo, having joined the UK drinks giant in 2007.

Prior to Diageo, he spent four years at Cohn & Wolf, rising to the position of MD, corporate affairs and chief operating officer for London. He has also had stints at Weber Shandwick and Edelman.

6 Rory Godson, Powerscourt

Rory Godson’s Powerscourt is fast becoming one of the go-to agencies for crisis PR. It advised BP on the Gulf spill and News Corporation on the consequences of the phone-hacking scandal. When Nat Rothschild needed a new adviser after picking a fight with the board of Bumi he went to Godson’s Powerscourt. Initially focused on Irish clients, Powerscourt is far more mainstream now. Points total 7.

Also mentioned (in no particular order)

Tim Burt Stockwell

Nick Miles Ex-M:Communications

Guy Lamming RLM Finsbury

Matthew Freud Freud Communications

Chris Barrie Citigate

Tim Allan Portland

James Henderson Pelham Bell Pottinger

David Yelland Brunswick

Ed Bridges FTI

Nick Cosgrove Brunswick

Giles Croot Barclays

Mike Smith Brunswick

Michael Sandler Hudson Sandler

Shakila Ahmed Travelodge

Richard Edelman Edelman

Anthony Carlisle Citigate

Andrew Lorenz FTI

Iain Anderson Cicero

Phillip Gawith Stockwell

Matt Ridsdale Tavistock

Patrick Donovan Citigate

Charles Naylor HSBC

Richard Jacques Brunswick

Mark Gallaher Pagefield

Ruban Yogarajah BHP Billiton

Paul McManus Walbrook