Katie Spreadbury Joins Vested as Director at European Headquarters

We are thrilled to announce that we have strengthened our European office with the hire of Katie Spreadbury as director. PRWeek broke the news earlier today.

Katie has 13 years of experience in the financial services industry across multiple sectors, including mobile payments, insurance, savings, credit cards, and business banking. Key previous clients include HSBC, M&G, Barclays, American Express, and Allianz.

Aside from that, Katie and I have a long history of working together successfully. She is driven and passionate in all that she does, delivering the highest of standards to clients. I’m thrilled and honoured she has decided to join our team, and I look forward to working with her as we grow the agency.

Katie was most recently practice director for financial services at Four Communications. Through the acquisition of Templars, Vested established its London office late last year as the centrepiece of its European operation. Globally, we continues to forecast significant growth, in staffing and in our client portfolio, in 2018 and beyond.

As Katie described on the Women in PR website, she was one of 15 individuals that was selected for the 2016/17 PR Week Women In PR Mentoring Scheme, which sought to inspire the next generation of female communications leaders.

Her mentor from that programme, Alison Clarke, a senior adviser for business leaders and communication professionals, said, “Katie’s commitment to professional excellence and innovative client delivery has always been at the core of her ambition and drive. I’m delighted that she has chosen to take this forward with Vested. Mentoring can be central to women in our industry to help and support them in achieving their potential and it’s great to see this in action here.”

Our Chief Economist Sounds off on Trump’s Tariffs

President Trump’s move to introduce new tariffs on steel and aluminum, which have yet to be fully spelled out as policy, was the lead story in this week’s Vested Suggested — and as the newsletter was being put to bed, our chief economist, Milton Ezrati, had the opportunity to appear on Cheddar to discuss the same topic.

“Trump indicated today that this might be more of a bargaining chip than some kind of a permanent thing,” he said, shortly before the Dow closed up more than 330 points on Monday, which signaled that market-movers had the same impression.

But, added Ezrati, “there really is a lot more power on the opposition side than on the pro-tariff side.”

Watch the full interview below.

Vested Ventures Completes Seed Round Investment in Dojo

We’re happy for the opportunity to add Dojo Technology Corp. to the Vested Ventures investment portfolio. We announced the deal this morning.

Led by CEO Chad Sichello, Dojo has an important mission and a purpose-driven team capable of executing it. Dojo’s iOS and Android-friendly mobile platform reimagines how families and young people interact with their banks and credit unions by providing reward-based gamification and nudging users towards positive financial habits.

The technology, in other words, promotes financial literacy in a meaningful, potentially sticky, way. The perceptions and habits Millennials demonstrate when it comes to money are deceptively nuanced, but one thing is without question: The adoption of rational financial habits makes lives better, and no time is too early to begin learning them.

Dojo integrates directly with financial institutions’ legacy account and card infrastructure to reduce customer acquisition costs and drive user engagement, building lifelong banking relationships and making the next generation of consumers better at managing their money.

Vested Ventures’ financial investment and strategic counsel will help Dojo activate its brand across the U.S. and Canada, driving new prospects and revenue opportunities. Vested’s services to Dojo will include marketing support, media relations, content development, corporate messaging, and executive positioning.

Vested Ventures seeks to create strategic, long-term partnerships with companies that foster positive relationships with money, whether that be by promoting financial literacy, helping bring underbanked people into the financial system, or promoting transparency in financial services. Dojo’s mission fits squarely into these objectives and we’re excited to help them refine their communications strategy to quickly enter new markets through our unique combination of capital, network, and exposure.

Dojo is the third company in the Vested Ventures investment portfolio, joining Remesh, an artificial intelligence polling platform, and Spare, a mobile app that rounds up users’ dining bills and donates the remainder to charities that feed the hungry.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Vested

“Clearly, sustained low inflation implies less uncertainty about the future, and lower risk premiums imply higher prices of stocks and other earning assets. We can see that in the inverse relationship exhibited by price/earnings ratios and the rate of inflation in the past.

“But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade?”

— Alan Greenspan, The Challenge of Central Banking in a Democratic Society

To riff off this timeless quote, our adoration for our clients is unquestionably exuberant, but perfectly rational. Every Valentine’s Day, I’m reminded of one of our core value propositions, and how it impacts the work we do. We make the lives of our client contacts easier — and, sometimes, that means putting in the time and effort to ensure they can enjoy time with their family without worrying that something important won’t get done or an impactful piece of the news cycle will get missed.

Part of our value is allowing our clients to shut off, to the extent they want to, every now and again. While we like our people to be able to shut off from time to time too, we’re always thinking about the best solutions to our client’s problems, even when we’re not behind a computer screen or in the office. We love what we do, and we can’t help but to obsess a bit over our clients and the industry conversations that impact them.

We sent out these gifts, complete with financial services puns, today to remind our clients that we’re always thinking about them, and about how to best solve problems or create opportunities on their behalf.

Beyond our clients, what else do we love? Our new office, for starters. Curious reporters and editors. Payments platforms that actually work. Hamilton: An American Musical. Regulatory wonkery. Most of us really love coffee.

And what don’t we love? Market volatility, although it is a good subject for our clients to talk about. We’re not altogether sold on Bitcoin, although the blockchain is without a doubt awesome. We don’t like timidness, reflexive pessimism, and plans that don’t put our clients in a position of strength.

In short, happy Valentine’s Day from Vested.

Hiring Great People: Our ‘Manivesto’

Our strategy for delivering value to clients is to offer an integrated set of capabilities and deep, comprehensive knowledge of the finance vertical. Our strategy as a business is to pair this commitment to client service with adjacent ventures, such as our investment fund and our publishing initiative.

But, to paraphrase Lawrence Bossidy, former COO of General Electric, at the end of the day, we know we’re going to excel by trusting our people, not by leaning on our strategies.

Recently, as we announced this afternoon, Vested was one of 14 agencies and in-house teams that PRWeek recognized as the communications industry’s best employers. This validates our ‘manivesto’: We look for professionals who are innately curious and intensely collaborative. Who are committed to building something meaningful. Our work taxes the brains and the stamina of our people, so ambition and entrepreneurial drive are essential qualities to have.

We balance this by offering an array of benefits that make this fast-paced work environment inviting rather than merely tolerable. And Vested is one of the very few agencies that offers employees the opportunity to earn real equity in the business. We’re committed to attracting and retaining the best by sharing the most.

This PRWeek recognition as one of the best places to work is both an honor and validation that our ‘manivesto’ is meaningful. That putting financial expertise, entrepreneurship and an integrated mindset at the core of all that we do informs and drives our cultural values and appeals to industry talent. The quality of our people — and the fact that they stay with us — testify to our being a great place to work.

“Successful employers listen to and empower their entire staffs, and none do it better than these organizations,” PRWeek wrote in this year’s release. PRWeek continued:

Only two years into its existence, Vested has quickly established itself as a firm that offers one of the most robust employee benefit packages in the market.

Vested employees are entitled to equity in the firm, unlimited vacation, a three-month sabbatical after four years of employment, and the use of the company account at Starbucks, Bluestone Lane, and Uber.

Numerous employees noted how the equity they have in the firm ensures they are all part of key conversations.

Coincidentally, we received this accolate shortly after moving into our new office at 22 W. 38th Street in Manhattan. We carefully designed this new office to appeal to our employees’ needs and our integrated nature. We strive to be a great place to work both culturally and physically.

After our expansion to the London market, we’re hiring aggressively in 2018. Visit our website and drop us a line if you’re interested in working with us.

(Image: Instagram.com/TeamVested.)

Five Predictions for Communications in 2018

Professionals in our line of work are responsible for delivering value to clients however they can, and we take that responsibility seriously. Part of being a valued agency partner is looking forward, at times many years ahead, to help clients articulate a vision of how their industry should move forward.

But this brand of thought leadership usually doesn’t deliver a great deal of value. Clients, and by extension communicators like us, must also understand and interpret how things are now, and take calculated actions that take into account today’s reality.

With that in mind, here’s a brief assessment of the conditions on the ground now for our industry, strategic communications, and how they’re likely to play out through 2018.

Earned media will grow increasingly competitive

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of six public relations practitioners for every one working journalist, and many of those PR pros are responsible for media outreach or publicity. This ratio, already unsustainable, will grow yet wider in 2018 and beyond, according to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What this means in practice is that it will become increasingly difficult to reach many journalists, and that teams who have strong access to press will be increasingly valuable to client-side stakeholders.

The risk profile of external communications will continue to grow

In 2010, Goldman Sachs began citing bad press as a material risk factor in its investor communications. Since then, many companies have followed suit. The point is clear: Negative press coverage is on the same plane as regulatory enforcement, lawsuits, recessions, natural disasters, and other commonly cited risks.

More recently, trust in media has eroded substantially. “Opinions are crowding out and overwhelming facts in the media, and Americans are placing less faith in institutions that were once trusted sources of information,” wrote intelligence firm Rand in a new (and disturbing) report, “Truth Decay.”

Taken together, the cost associated with negative press attention and the erosion of trust in mainstream media add up to an environment that features snowballing risk for communicators.

Executives will increasingly recognize strong comms work

It’s no secret that customers consider the reputation of a company’s leadership before buying what that company sells. The negative opinion customers had of its founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, reportedly drove Uber’s board to have him replaced.

“About half the respondents [to an in-house survey] had a positive impression of Uber and its convenient ride-hailing app,” Bloomberg reported in a revealing profile of Kalanick’s ouster. “But if respondents knew anything about Kalanick, an inveterate flouter of both workplace conventions and local transportation laws, they had a decidedly negative view.”

Because media is steadily trending away from facts that inform and towards personalities and opinions that drive clicks and Facebook shares, it’s harder and harder for executives to separate their personal profiles from their businesses. Names make news. This is making executives more acquainted with the PR process and more appreciative of it when it succeeds.

Integrated communication will take center stage

Agency teams can no longer provide optimal value to client-side stakeholders by treating media relations as its own activity. Instead, earned, owned, and paid need to work together seamlessly to make a client’s case across platforms, disciplines, and audiences.

Part of this theme is the diminishing returns of conventional media relations, which has never truly scaled well. But the rapid evolution of paid and owned media, as well as the ability of communications agencies to extend their mandate to include adjacent activities like media buying, executive ghostwriting, and marketing communications. Agencies that specialize in external communications will find the greatest success in developing a singular story that truly resonates and telling it across earned, owned, and paid channels cohesively.

External comms will continue to stress practitioners out

Public relations practitioner is the sixth most-stressful job there is, according to an analysis of more than 200 professions by CareerCast.com, a website for job-hunters.

The methodology took into account 11 stress factors, such as travel frequency, deadlines, public scrutiny, physical demands, environmental conditions, risk to life, and interactions with the public. It’s safe to say that the stress factors PR is known for, such as tight deadlines, grating scrutiny from stakeholders, and lots of travel, aren’t going away.

Agencies that incorporate wellness programs into their benefits and offer attractive time-off and work-from-home policies are best positioned to minimize stress for workers. (Now is a good place to mention Vested earned a spot on PRWeek’s latest Best Places to Work ranking.)

Former FTI Consulting Managing Director Joins Vested to Lead European Operations

Adding to the news of our acquisition of Templars Communications, it’s my pleasure to welcome Elspeth Rothwell to Vested as U.K. CEO. Elspeth will run our European operations from London.

“It is a privilege, honour, and delight to join the Vested team. Putting purpose and personal at the heart of how financial services firms engage with the world around them is critical and I believe that Vested’s approach is both refreshing and on the money. I’m delighted to join such an innovative and entrepreneurial organisation that is already changing the shape of financial services communications,” Elspeth said in a news release we issued this morning.

She joins us from FTI Consulting Strategic Communications, where she was managing director, financial services, responsible for delivering integrated communications campaigns and strategic planning for financial services clients. Prior to FTI, Elspeth was deputy managing director at Consolidated PR, part of Four Communications, where she ran the organization’s financial services offer. Her client experience spans challenger brands, niche specialists, and household names in financial services, including American Express, Brewin Dolphin, HSBC, and Virgin Money.

We acquired Templars in the U.K. because we recognize the opportunity a major financial market like London presents and having the right person to lead us in the region is critical. Elspeth is an accomplished professional with a track record of excellence in thinking big and delivering value to clients, and we’re thrilled that she chose to join our team to lead the firm’s European operations.

Read more in PRWeek, which broke the news this morning.

Vested Acquires UK Agency Templars, Opens London Office

We’re now (truly) international.

Vested this morning formally announced its acquisition of Templars Communications, a strategic financial communications agency in London. As I expressed to PRWeek, which broke news of the deal yesterday, we’ve been looking for the right opportunity to establish an office in London, and acquiring Templars was a natural next step.

Our two firms are passionate about the financial industry and share a zealous commitment to delivering value to clients, and we’re excited to seize the opportunities this combination will create for us and for our clients. Playing lead on the formation of the Global FinTech PR Network in 2016 broadened the geographic scope of the capabilities we offered at that time, and our acquisition of Templars continues to take Vested in that direction.

Kitty Parry, CEO and founder of Templars and a Young Global Leader in the World Economic Forum, will join Vested UK as a senior advisor. Her client-facing role will include providing executive-level counsel and sharing insights on the macro issues that impact how financial services organizations market and communicate. Parry will remain CEO of Social Media Compliance, a startup that helps financial firms manage the risks that social media use creates.

In 2018, we expect growth: in the number of intelligent, passionate people who choose to work at Vested; in the increasingly varied services our teams provide to clients; and in the kinds of clients that retain us as trusted communications partners. And, overall, in the way we execute our strategy as a company.

Vested exists to support the marketing communications function within financial firms. Today, as we have since our founding, we recognize that consulting is but one piece of that puzzle. Our mandate also demands we help our clients source the best marketing and communications talent; empower their people with the best data, insight, and technology; and provide on-demand training and education that allows their people to truly excel.

No agency in the world truly does all of those things. But it’s where we’re headed, and our combination with Templars is an important step in the journey.

Vested’s Maggie Monaghan Named Rising Fintech Star

Account executive’s work on Clarity Money launch helps agency win ‘Best Fintech Launch’ in PR News Finnie awards

We’re thrilled to add two more pieces of hardware to our awards shelf, and to see an outstanding young professional recognized for her hard work on a high-profile client.

PR News recognized Maggie Monaghan, an account executive at Vested, as a Rising Fintech Star. And Maggie’s work on the Clarity Money launch helped Vested earn the top spot in the category of Best Fintech Launch. Both awards were part of PR News’ Finnie Awards, which evaluate the most innovative and creative financial communications campaigns and people.

Since its launch in January 2017, Clarity Money has become one of the fastest growing personal finance management apps. The personal financial management application has analyzed more than $60 billion in transactions for customers and saved its engaged users who interact with the app more than $300 per year. Maggie leads the media relations efforts for the launch and ongoing program at Vested on behalf of Clarity Money, which helped the startup achieve these milestones.

Said Marc Atiyeh, chief strategy officer at Clarity Money, in a news release we published today “We rely on Vested as our partner and the team was an integral part of making our launch a success. From the onset of our partnership, Vested worked with our team to make sure we had an impactful message that would resonate with our key audiences.”

One of our core strengths is the cohesiveness of the team and our dedication to integrated communications in the financial services and fintech market. The competition in the PFM space is expanding, which means the message and value proposition each new entrant brings needs to be clearly articulated to consumers and influencers. We believe in Clarity Money, which is what made the launch such an important initiative for us, and Maggie is an integral part of the account team. It’s been exciting to see the company grow so quickly as we continue to work together.

Lauren Pozmanter Joins Vested

The Vested team continues to grow. This morning, we announced that Lauren Pozmanter, who was previously head of public relations at Worldwide Business Research, has joined the agency as account manager.

At WBR, an events company and professional services provider that has been a Vested client since 2016, Lauren created global communication strategies across the company’s event portfolios as its first public relations hire. In her position, she focused on both financial and retail industry events, including eTail, to raise the profile of the company and its customers amid a competitive landscape.

“Working with an agency from the client side is perhaps the best way to see how its team truly operates. I know for a fact that Vested practices what it preaches, and I’m thrilled for the opportunity to join this diverse, assertive, and service-minded team,” Lauren said in a press release we issued this morning.

Lauren brings a unique perspective to our team following her in-house experience at WBR. Having someone with her background and wealth of knowledge about this space will be a massive value-add to our clients and colleagues.

As an agency, we have ambitious growth plans for 2018 and beyond. Check out our commitment to diversity and our perks, then peruse some open opportunities to work with us.