ASFA does it again

It’s feels like a growing trend that the annual ASFA conference is timed with a seismic event.

Twelve months ago I sat in the ASFA conference as the surprise and shock of the Trump election spread through the auditorium. This year, it was the announcement of a Royal Commission, not just into banks, but the broader financial services sector – including superannuation.

Good timing or bad timing, it’s still not clear, but the show (or in this case the world’s biggest pension fund conference) must go on.

With increased analysis and scrutiny set to be a clear focus in 2018, it was unsurprising a clear theme to emerge at ASFA 2017 was a focus on trust and brand.

And according to branding expert Martin Lindstrom, organisations need to better understand the heartbeat of their consumers. According to Lindstrom, this is difficult because 85% of what we do as an individual is irrational. However, if brands can better infuse emotions into dealing with individuals then they’ll be much more successful in creating a connection and fostering an advocate.

Spaceship and other new players were cited in a number of discussions as an example of one brand doing an especially good job of building trust—by aligning user experience with their expectation. But as journalist Sophie Elsworth pointed out on a confronting panel of media commentators, the general punter does not care about super. It is too far into the future and too confusing, so people switch off.

Compounding that confusion is the ongoing regulatory uncertainty that continues to plague the sector. In her address to ASFA, the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer said despite the announcement of the Royal Commission the Government planned to keep pushing previously announced policy reforms.

So above and beyond the Royal Commission, in 2018 we could potentially see legislation around the compulsory introduction of a minimum one-third independent directors on the boards of all super funds; new oversight to ensure greater transparency of how super funds spend members’ money;  and the introduction of choice to the default fund system. With the Productivity Commission’s Competitiveness and Efficiency of the Superannuation Industry due to report mid-year and the Insurance Within Super Working Group developing a best practice code of conduct, and Government pushing a range of superannuation legislation through Parliament, 2018 promises to be another busy year (nee confusing year for members) for the superannuation and financial services sector.

What we’ll be talking about at ASFA 2018 in Adelaide is anyone’s guess.

It’s a Wrap – Honner’s quarterly media roundup (Q317)

What’s news?

The big can now get bigger: media law changes pass the Senate

After months of negotiation and delay, the government’s media reforms passed the Senate. The government secured the support of the Nick Xenophon Team and One Nation to pass the bill that scraps restrictions including the “two out of three” rule, which stops companies owning newspaper, radio and TV stations in the same city. The changes also abolish the “reach rule” which prevents a single TV broadcaster from reaching more than 75% of the population.

Essentially, the changes allow for big media companies to get bigger and open the way for a rise in mergers and acquisitions in the industry. The bill will need to pass the House of Representatives to become law, however that’s expected to be a process of rubber stamping given the government’s majority in the lower house.

Changes too late for Murdoch, Gordon: CBS lobs rescue bid for Ten 

The changes come too late for Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon who had hoped the reform would allow them to take over troubled broadcaster Ten Network. Before the parliamentary debate concluded, US broadcasting giant CBS struck a rescue deal to buy Ten, putting paid to the plans of the Australian media moguls.

Gordon owns the WIN television network, while Murdoch, who is News Corp co-chairman, owns radio station Nova. Ten had been placed into voluntary administration in June after Murdoch—the network’s former executive chairman—and fellow creditor James Packer backed away from guaranteeing a new $250 million line of credit.

Gordon went down fighting, but his last-minute legal action to stop CBS was rejected by the Supreme Court of NSW and Ten creditors voted overwhelmingly in favour of the CBS deal days later. Still, it’s not over until it’s over. The CBS deal could face a legal appeal from Gordon and requires approval from the Foreign Investment Board.

Write-downs, losses and cost cuts: just another earnings season

It’s no easy environment that CBS is walking into, as recent financial results from rival local networks attest. During the August earnings season, Seven West Media and Nine Network both reported large losses courtesy of asset write-downs and a continued contraction in the free-to-air advertising market, as viewers continue to abandon broadcast  TV for broadband options such as streaming services or social media.

Over in newspaper land, it’s no better. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp announced it plunged to a US$643 million annual loss due to major write-downs of its U.K. and Australian newspapers. Its stable of Australian mastheads, which includes The Australian, Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph – had their book value slashed by nearly 40% to US$310 million.

The company flagged another round of cuts for the business this financial year, at least equivalent to the US$40 million carved out of the business last year. While the last lot of cuts included layoffs of 70 staff photographers and major cuts to production and sub-editing staff, News Corp’s new chief financial officer Susan Panuccio said the next tranche would predominantly focus on central, non-content related costs.

Fairfax takes drastic measures: reveals details of Domain split

Fairfax Media warned its revenues are down 4-5% on last year’s levels before revealing details of its plan to split off the only growth part of the business, its real estate advertising arm Domain. The separation will see Fairfax emerge with a 60% stake in Domain and reduced debt. The other 40% of Domain will be held by existing Fairfax shareholders.

The plan is driven by Fairfax’s belief that its share price doesn’t fully reflect Domain’s true value and that the stock is being unduly weighed down by concerns over its traditional publishing assets. Fairfax ramped up efforts to spin off Domain after US private equity firms TPG Capital Management and Hellman & Friedman abandoned moves to acquire the company.

Death by Google and Facebook: Senate committee hears the woes of public interest journalism

The Senate committee inquiry into the future of public interest journalism in Australia continued. In a series of heated exchanges, Senator Xenophon accused Google and Facebook of killing Australian journalism, saying they are making millions in advertising revenue at the expense of Australia’s democracy – claims both firms denied.

Launched after Fairfax Media announced its latest round of job cuts in May, the Senate inquiry has discussed the possibility of taxing news aggregators such as Google and Facebook and providing financial incentives in the form of tax breaks to encourage greater investment in journalism.

Appearing before the committee in August, Google unsurprisingly rejected the idea of a levy on aggregators to prop up Australian journalism, arguing it hasn’t worked elsewhere in the world. Google Australia Managing Director Jason Pellegrino told the Committee consumers are to blame for the woes of journalism because they are changing the way they consume news.

The spread of fake news and what Google and Facebook are doing about it was another source of contention. Facebook Australia’s head of policy, Mia Garlick, said Facebook is tackling fake news by removing accounts that exhibit suspicious behaviour rather than because of the nature of their content. Senator Xenophon accused Facebook of not acting fast enough to stamp out fake news.

It was dog eat dog among the media with Fairfax Chief Executive Greg Hywood blaming the ABC for using taxpayer dollars to steal the newspaper’s audience, while conservative think-tank Institute for Public Affairs called for the public broadcaster to be privatised.

The Committee is due to present its recommendation in a final report by Dec. 7.


Australians are worried about fake news, but not willing to pay

Deloitte’s sixth annual Media Consumer Survey found Australians remain overwhelmingly reluctant to pay for online news, with only 10% of respondents willing to do so. The reluctance comes despite concerns over the accuracy of news. The survey found 65% of respondents who access news through online sources are concerned about being exposed to “fake news” and 77% believe they have been exposed.

Newspapers still the most trusted for advertising; social media the least

Despite the omnipresent shift in advertising from print to online, a survey by AdTrust found that newspapers are still the most trusted platform for advertising. The study, commissioned by publishing industry body NewsMediaWorks, found that an audience’s trust in ads is greatest in newspapers, followed by cinema, radio, magazines and digital news media. Ads in social media are the least trusted, followed by search engines and any other websites.

Quotable quotes:

“Is the requirement for ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ coverage designed to give voice to white supremacists, holocaust deniers, climate change sceptics and anti-vaxxers?” – Labor communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland after One Nation leader Pauline Hanson called for the ABC to insert the words “fair and balanced” in its charter.

“We’ve built extremely strong and very appropriate laws to govern media. All of them, unfortunately, are completely irrelevant for the era we are about to enter.” – Melbourne Business School adjunct professor Mark Ritson addressing the Senate committee inquiry into the future of public interest journalism.

“The digital disruption that has transformed the media has shaken everything we knew about our industry. There is no certainty.” – the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance in its submission to the Senate committee inquiry into the future of public interest journalism.

“We are in an era where integrity is priceless. Yet digital distributors have long been a platform for the fake, the faux and the fallacious (and) have eroded the integrity of content by undermining its provenance.” – News Corporation Chief Executive Robert Thomson addressing investors after the company announced a US$643 million loss.

Honner finalist in The Holmes Report 2017 Asia-Pacific Corporate PR Consultancies of the Year

2017 Asia-Pacific Corporate PR Consultancies of the Year

The 2017 Asia-Pacific PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 100 submissions and meetings with the best PR firms across the region. Consultancy of the Year winners are announced and honoured at the 2017 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, taking place on 14 September in Hong Kong.

Honner (Australia/Independent)

A veteran of respected UK communications agency Fishburn, of Australian institutional investment journal Super Review, and of the banking sector in both the UK and Australia, Philippa Honner launched her own communications firm in 1997 and has built it into the leader in the financial services sector in Australia, with a team of close to 20 in Sydney (there are plans for an additional office in New York) serving a client portfolio that includes big-four bank NAB, $55 billion superannuation fund UniSuper, and the world’s largest listed hedge fund manager Man Group. A wealth of new business from clients such as Franklin Templeton, MoneyTree, Plato, Antipodes, Quantifeed, Bell Direct, PM Capital, bfinance, and Antipodes helped fuel healthy growth last year.

Honner was recognized at the Financial Standard MAX Awards as PR Agency of the Year in 2016, having earlier been voted Australia’s best agency by financial journalists, and it has built a reputation for thought leadership in the sector—and the media environment in particular—and partnering with international specialists to bring a global perspective to clients. In terms of expanding capabilities, Honner forged a strategic partnership with digital agency Spark Green to build websites and digital platforms to assist in content-led campaigns.

Last year, the firm provided Australian communications activity for the global announcement of the proposed merger between Henderson Global Investors and Janus Capital; was engaged by fund manager Antipodes Partners to manage the launch communications for its first listed investment company; and worked with Australian Ethical, the oldest and most successful ethical investment manager in Australia, to support its next phase of growth.

Other finalists include Allison+Partners (MDC Partners), APCO Worldwide (Independent), Citadel-Magnus (Australia/Independent) and SPRG (Independent).

20 years young – celebrating two decades as pioneers in financial communications

This week, Honner celebrated its 20th birthday with almost 200 clients, journalists, staff and friends. It’s been a long but fulfilling journey, and Honner is deeply appreciative of those who joined us to celebrate – and helped us get to where we are today!

As Founder Philippa Honner noted in her speech – it’s been a tremendously rewarding experience growing the business from a dynamic one-man band in 1997 to the largest communications agency specialising in financial services today.

A night to remember at The Mint in Sydney, Honner marked the occasion with a number of exciting announcements.

The team is thrilled to reveal our plans to establish a New York marketing office to drive business development efforts in offshore markets – sourcing global clients to be supported in Australia by the Sydney-based team.

Closer to home, Honner also announced a strategic partnership with website and digital agency Spark Green, an agency that also specialises in the financial services sector. Honner is working with Spark Green to help clients build user-friendly websites and digital platforms to support content-driven campaigns and help financial brands better engage with their audiences.

To support our fast-paced growth, Honner also announced four senior appointments at the milestone event.

Senior Consultants Suzanne Dwyer and Michael Yiannakis both bring over 25 years’ communications experience to the team.

Suzanne started her career in agency at Edelman and has held senior roles with ANZ, EY and Swiss Re. She has also run her own business, providing strategic communication advice to executives in the finance, education, pharma and power sectors.

Michael was a long-time business journalist at The Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong and The Australian Financial Review in Sydney and prior to joining Honner also worked as Head of External Affairs and Media Relations, Asia Pacific, for American International Group.

Honner is also building out its content capability, with the recent appointments of Rebecca Thurlow, previously from the Wall Street Journal, as Senior Writer. Amanda Taylor, who brings 17 years financial writing experience, including seven years in marketing communications and digital roles at AMP Capital, has also joined Honner’s content team

It certainly is an exciting time for PR in a changing industry, and as the demand for specialist advice in the fast-moving Australian financial sector grows, Honner looks forward to partnering with our clients to deliver a leading offering.

Here’s to the next 20!

The Honner team

Our clients, journalists, staff and friends.

Philippa Honner’s speech

Amanda Taylor (Honner), Jessica Lee (Cromwell) and Jessica Effeney (Honner)

Brendan Wright (FAST) and Paul Cheal (Honner)

Adam Zuchetti (My Business) and Eric Robledo (Honner)

Cameron Poolman (OnDeck), Charlene Baston (OnDeck), Rashmi Punjabi (Honner) and Oliver Wade (OnDeck)

Chirs Lumby (BT), Bryan Gray (JP Morgan) and Chris Field (JP Morgan)

Damian Crowley (Pengana), Lachlan Douglas (Engines)

Darin Tyson-Chan (Benchmark Media) and Kristen Allen (Perpetual)

Jacqui Marshall (Investec Australia), Michael Clarke (Challenger), Philippa Honner (Honner) and Milton Samios (Investec Australia)

Jamie Williamson (Financial Standard), Adrian Flores (Momentum Media) and Darren Snyder (Financial Standard)

Kate Machin (Investors Mutual), Matthew Walker (WLM Financial), Cameron Poolman (OnDeck) and Susie Bell (Honner)

Lauren Hogbin (Australian Ethical) and Allyson Lowbridge (Australian Ethical)

Mark Smith (FSC), Aleks Vickovich (Momentum Media) and Ian Irvine (ASX)

Matt Dell (Pinnacle), Kylie Smith (Perpetual) and Natasha Gilbert (Pinnacle)

Michael Rockliff (XTB) and Julie Martin (XTB)

Michael Yiannakis (Honner) and Jason Clout (AFR)

Paul Cheal (Honner), Andrew Kleinig (Nuveen) and Bronwyn Jones (TH Real Estate)

Paul Cheal (Honner), Philippa Honner (Honner) and Susie Bell (Honner)

Rachel Maher (Honner), Rebecca Piercy (Honner), Greg Bright (Investor Strategy News) and Matthew Dell (Pinnacle)

Trevor Dixon (Link Group) and John-Paul Cowling (Relational Data Systems)

Vishal Teckchandani (NAB Trade) and Alex Vynokur (BetaShares)

AltFi Australasia: online lenders a growth driver for the fintech sector

Australia is in the midst of an alternative lending growth spurt. Awareness among consumers is currently lower than other countries, but we are catching up, the market opportunity is huge and the number of players is growing rapidly.

This was the take-out from the AltFi Australasia conference that Honner attended on Monday 27 February, supporting our client OnDeck, the major sponsor.

In between managing interviews with OnDeck’s Australian CEO, Cameron Poolman and SVP International, Rob Young, the Honner team sat in on several interesting presentations.

The overarching theme was of an industry that is growing fast because it’s meeting the needs of both customers and investors. Customers love the ease and speed of dealing with fintech lenders, and are increasingly looking beyond the ‘slow no’ of a bank to access cost-effective funding.

Investors in the Peer-to-Peer lending space are responding positively to an emerging asset class that goes beyond traditional fixed income or debt products, delivering diversification and returns.

As part of the Global Fintech PR Network, Honner is closely connected to online lending and we are watching keenly as it grows. We are excited to help drive awareness of an innovative sector that is harnessing technology to create a better customer experience.

Honner announces key senior appointments

Specialist financial communications firm Honner today announced a number of senior team updates, reinforcing its position as the leading provider of communications advice to Australia’s dynamic financial services sector.

General Manager and equity partner Paul Cheal has been promoted to Managing Director, reflecting his increasing role in managing the day to day operations as well as the strategic direction of the business. Paul has been with the firm for five years.

Account Director and equity partner Susie Bell has been promoted to General Manager, adding a range of team and business management duties to her role. Susie will continue to lead account teams servicing some of Honner’s largest clients. She has been with the firm for eight years.

Paul and Susie will continue to work closely with founder Philippa Honner to drive the growth and direction of the firm. Philippa will become Executive Chair of Honner and remains the majority owner of the business. The team changes were effective 1 January 2017.

Global networks and expanding client base

Honner continues to grow its Australian-based team as well as expand its global communications network. Honner recently announced it was a founding member of the Global Fintech PR Network – the first network of PR agencies specialising in financial technology. The network complements Honner’s longstanding membership of the prestigious global corporate communications agency network GFCNet, which recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary. Honner is the Australian representative for both networks.

During 2016 the Honner team enjoyed two staff exchange postings with Asia-based GFCNet agency partner, Ryan Communication, as well as hosting network team members from France and Hong Kong.

Honner has also appointed Rashmi Punjabi to the role of Senior Account Executive, based in Sydney. Rashmi brings five years’ experience in public relations, investor relations and equity research and joins Honner from GFCNet partner agency AdFactors PR – India’s largest PR firm. She holds a Masters in Economics from The University of Warwick, with specialisation in global finance and derivative securities and markets.

New clients that have joined the agency over the past year include MetLife, Henderson Global Investors, Cromwell Property Group and Liquidnet.

Honner also continues to expand the firm’s listed credentials, working with a growing number of ASX-listed clients as well as supporting the successful 2016 IPOs of listed investment companies Antipodes Global Investment Company [ASX:APL] and Watermark Global Leaders Fund [ASX:WGF]. The listed portfolio is led by Account Director Rebecca Piercy.

Honner also continues to do a range of pro-bono work in the financial sector including ongoing work for industry super fund mental health initiative SuperFriend.

Founder Philippa Honner said she looked forward to another year of growth in 2017, which will mark the firm’s 20th year.
“We hold a unique position in the financial communications landscape. Our deep insights, industry network and strategic approach enables us to deliver integrated communications programs to blue chip brands across the spectrum of financial services.

“We go into 2017 following another strong year of development and new partnerships, and will continue to expand our range of communications services to meet the changing needs of our clients and their stakeholders.

“I congratulate Paul and Susie on their promotions and thank them, and the whole team, for their commitment to building strong and enduring partnerships across the financial sector, and to delivering quality outcomes to our clients.”

Honner’s exchange program connects specialist PR minds across the globe

This year, Honner’s Senior Account Manager Kate Miller spent a week with one of our global agency partners in Hong Kong, Ryan Communication, as part of our GFC/NET exchange program.

The program is an initiative between members of the Global Financial Communication Network (GFC/Net) to provide an opportunity for staff to spend a week abroad and see how like-minded agencies operate in different geographies.

During her time with Ryan Communication, Kate took part in many of the team’s day-to-day activities, getting a feel for PR in the dynamic Asian market. She also spent time with various team members sharing insights and looking for opportunities for Honner to enhance processes as well as identify areas for further agency collaboration.

“I really enjoyed my week with Ryan Communication and I was grateful for their incredible hospitality. PR and communications continue to evolve rapidly, with digital innovation driving seriously fast change and a constant need to reconsider the rules of engagement,” Kate said.

“Getting to look at communications from a different perspective provided a great chance to reflect upon the way we do things and how we can continue to adapt and grow.”

GFC/NET is a specialist financial and corporate communications network, bringing together leading independent PR consultancies in the world’s major financial markets.

With agencies across the globe, GFC/Net enables boutique, specialists like Honner to share and learn best practice approaches to communications. It also means we can leverage global insights and contacts across the spectrum of financial PR and public policy campaigns.

The network also hosts an annual GFC/Net Annual General Meeting, where senior representatives from the agencies share insights to support business growth and improved outcomes for our clients.

We work closely with our GFC/NET partners across several international clients. For example, Honner collaborates with international partners on clients including TH Real Estate, Legg Mason and Liquidnet. Such collaboration enables us to build communications programs that deliver a consistent presence for brands across international markets and leverage opportunities in a range of geographic locations.

Honner has also recently announced our membership of a new global collaboration, the Fintech Global PR Network.

If you want to hear more about our GFC/Net affiliation, then please email Honner.

Global Fintech PR Network Launched

The Global Fintech PR Network is the world’s first network of PR agencies specialising in financial technology – or ‘Fintech’.

The new network so far consists of eight independent PR agencies, based on five continents, all sharing the same dedicated focus in delivering high-quality PR, communications and strategic advisory services to clients in the fintech industry around the world.

The network enables member agencies to offer their local clients a global perspective on the fast-moving fintech industry. It is also an efficient platform for collaborative servicing of clients operating across geographies and to help organisations within the fintech space:

  • Gain a truly global perspective across diverse audiences
  • Work with leading agency specialists in each locality

The idea for the network originated in Copenhagen earlier this year with the partners behind Norfico – the first dedicated fintech advisory and PR agency in the Nordics (Kristian T. Sørensen and Michael Juul Rugaard). Their effort to establish the network quickly became a global project once they had identified and reached out to like-minded agencies from other geographies, all of which welcomed the initiative.

From the outset, industry knowledge was key to agency selection, with Michael Juul Rugaard saying “We firmly believe that the key to creating real value for our customers is to specialise and maintain deep industry knowledge. It becomes especially evident in highly sophisticated and complex industries like fintech.”

The founding PR agencies are based in Austin, Copenhagen, London, New York, São Paulo, Singapore, Sydney, and Tel Aviv, and the network is expected to expand further, both in terms of member agencies and geographical coverage.

List of founding members of The Global Fintech PR Network:

Austin, Texas: Manzer Communications (
Copenhagen: Norfico (
London: MD Consulting (
New York: Vested (
Sao Paulo: Nobiletec (
Singapore: Bowlah PR (
Sydney: Honner (
Tel Aviv: Spicetree Communications (

Dan Simon, CEO of New York-based fintech PR agency Vested, says:

“For agencies in this network, some of the main advantages will be lead sharing and joint servicing of international customers. I see a rapidly growing demand for our services, and I hope that together we can locate more agencies to join the network.”

Paul Cheal, General Manager at the Australian PR agency Honner adds:

“Fintech is becoming progressively mainstream. As a group, we can support our clients’ international aspirations backed by a network of highly specialised agencies in leading markets across the globe.”

Caroline Bowler, the founder of Singapore-based Bowlah PR, says:

“Establishing a global network of agencies within fintech could turn out to be a huge advantage for a large number of our clients. Fintech is born global; our clients need and depend on agencies with an in-depth knowledge of their industry and with a world-spanning network.”  

Please also visit the network’s website at

Money Management women In Financial Services Awards 2015

Now in their third year, the awards recognise outstanding contributions, product innovation and stellar leadership skills among female financial services industry participants.

PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Anne Loveridge received the night’s top award of Woman of the Year for her pioneering efforts around establishing more flexible working conditions almost 20 years ago. PwC was also named Employer of the Year.

UniSuper scooped an impressive two awards on the night. The fund’s Executive Manager, Member and People Services, Lee Scales, took home the prestigious title of Superfund Executive of the Year and UniSuper’s Danielle Clarke won in the Marketing and Communications category.

Honner client, Suzanne White from Beazley, was also shortlisted for the Life Insurance category.

Other winners of the night included:

• The Industry Advocacy award went to Clare Payne – Founder/COO of The Banking and Finance Oath/Tobacco Free Portfolios

• The Rising Star award went to Lara Neate – Claims Consultant BT Financial Group

• The Financial Planner of the Year award went to Lisa Duggan – Financial planner/director Epona Financial Guidance

Honner congratulates all the winners and finalists.

The view from the Aged Care Summit

You might have heard – Australia’s population is ageing. And as those among us grapple with the realities of planning for retirement and caring for loved-ones in their elder years, financial advisers are also mapping out their role in this significant transition.

With this in mind, Financial Observer this week hosted the Aged Care Summit, providing insights and practical tips for advisers wanting to provide the best possible assistance for clients in their retirement years.

Honner attended the Sydney event. Here are a few takeaways:

• In 40 years almost 1 in 4 Australians will be aged over 65 years.

• In 2013-14, around 10 per cent of the Australian population accessed some form of aged care.

• Increasing rates of dementia mean that when many people reach the age where they need aged care, they don’t have the capacity to make important decisions. Educating clients and helping them plan for older age sooner is therefore critical.

• The growing need for advice aside, there are strategic reasons for advisers to move into the aged care space, including the opportunity to build out a more comprehensive advice proposition and act as a trusted ‘mentor’ and ‘project manager’ for families.

• Aged care advice isn’t just about the best financial outcomes for the client – it must consider complex family dynamics and preferences, for example, the best interests for mum and dad versus their children’s inheritance.