Predictably Unpredictable: Brexit Challenges for Financial Communications

Uncertainty is the one certainty that follows Brexit. The relentless march of globalization has taken an unprecedented step backwards. Britain’s decision to commit economic seppuku and abandon common trade, common laws and common sense has thrown financial services into chaos. Never before have clarity of thought, message and perception been more required in an industry that rewards prescience and consistency.

This crisis offers challenges and opportunities for financial services communicators. The banking sector has been forced to respond to speculation over the futures of its employees in the UK. JP Morgan and BNP Paribas are reportedly exploring the prospect of relocating staff to Paris, while Barclays and Morgan Stanley have had to deny the possibility of redundancies in light of Brexit. Having spent the last six months threatening to jettison all their employees into the English Channel, this clamour is unsurprising. The banks will demand coordinated external and internal communications strategies that allay the concerns of investors and employees, and here lie the opportunities for public relations strategists.

Beyond banking, all enterprises with interests in the United Kingdom will look for leadership at regulatory level. On Tuesday 5 July, the Bank of England published its latest Financial Stability Report. Communicators must engage with, disseminate and clarify the Bank’s key findings, strengthening clients’ hands as they navigate a new era of financial markets. The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, is a rare figure of calm in the midst of a leadership meltdown at political level. Despite Carney’s speech last week, in which he ruled out the possibility of raising interest rates, and sought to calm investors, the value of the pound continued to fall. Communicators must do better to capitalise upon the Governor’s strong reputation during these troubling times.

Bankers aren’t the only financial services operators whose jobs are now under threat. Indeed, financial services communicators must now justify the importance of their craft. Companies must be able to identify worthwhile returns on their investment in communications. Financial services communicators who are able to keep their clients ahead of the curve, providing both public relations and general counsel to clients, stand to thrive in a short term period of unpredictable turmoil.

In the long term, all bets are off. We will come to discover whether the United Kingdom experiences a soft Brexit, thereby retaining free access to the single market, or hard Brexit, a truly injurious fall from grace riddled with tariffs and a subsequent collapse in foreign investment. Until we know what Brexit will actually look like, it is incumbent upon financial communicators to restore calm to an economy that has known and survived disaster. Until we understand where the economy will end up without its proverbial paddle, the responsibility falls upon financial public relations strategists to make sense of our times, identify new opportunities for business and lead the way in rebuilding a predictable UK economy.


Alex Warnakulasuriya

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search