“IRF has always been one of the most proactive and professional partners”

Julia Harrison, Global Head of Public Affairs & Government Relations, FTI Consulting

How important is the Affiliate Network for FTI’s Strategic Communications business?

The network is incredibly important for FTI. We do not want to and cannot be in every market ourselves, but our clients still need the same depth of coverage and expertise in those locations. We have to offer great representation for our clients but also the ability to provide quality advice even under pressure, reliable coverage both in depth and breadth; and to do so consistently time and again. FTI could not win the international mandates nor grow in the way it does without our affiliate partners. IRF has always been one of the most proactive and professional and we are very lucky to be able to include you in our network.

And how relevant is the Swiss market for FTI Consulting?

The Swiss market plays a key role as a financial center, with its independent but close relationship to the EU and base of international organizations like WHO. FTI aims to combine work across the full range of stakeholders at the intersection of capital markets, corporate reputation and public policy so Switzerland is key.

What are your key criteria for choosing an Affiliate Partner?

Speaking personally, as someone who works with our affiliate network most days it’s important that we trust each other and have common goals; and that the affiliate feels also that FTI meets its own criteria for partnership. That way we are aligned and both FTI and the affiliate are happy to engage all in. Of course, FTI has formal criteria, and a robust screening, compliance and contracting framework to make sure that the quality of the affiliate network remains top notch. Finally, ethics: when we are involved in protecting clients’ reputations, we have to share a common value system which goes beyond compliance only.

What can you say about your collaboration with IRF?

IRF is one of the most active, collaborative, and thoughtful partners we have. The team is great and really knowledgeable. We have had great collaboration beyond the client programs too; building our joint expertise and developing our team links through exchanges and training. FTI has long benefitted from IRF’s input to our regular network planning sessions and indeed part of the beauty of our collaboration is its longevity. Martin and team, we congratulate you on your big anniversary and we hope to be working together still 10 years from now.

Did FTI ever think of opening an own branch in Switzerland?

We are really happy working with IRF and being able to draw on the best in the market. Why would we want to compete? I can’t speak for the organization as a whole – we have a very wide-ranging mix of business advisory services from economic consulting to technology within FTI. I believe we have had one or two deep economics specialists located in Switzerland at times over the years.

Which joint mandates stand out?

It is difficult to pick but one. Over time, we have worked together on more than thirty projects. We have been teaming up in public affairs and positioning work for large companies like Zurich Insurance Group for many years and are currently doing so for life science firm Neurimmune. This is complemented by a number of special situations, IPOs, and cross-border transactions. All in all, it is one of the most intense collaborations we enjoy in the Affiliate network.

As FTI’s global head of Public Affairs, located in Brussels: How do you see Switzerland’s position as a non-EU member in Europe’s economy?

There is a close and very active relationship between Switzerland and the EU. There are less visible and lesser-known formal mechanisms that see Switzerland’s influence magnified behind the scenes, and informally proximity and shared heritage also play a role. This is not just in relation to the important trade relationship (particularly in services) which is formalized through bilateral agreements and Switzerland’s adoption of parts of the EU acquis, but also more widely around shaping policy. With the EU's current focus on innovation and technology and a significant portion of foreign direct investment in the EU originating in Switzerland, the relationship looks set to continue.

Looking at global trends like digitalization, social media, alternative assets, crypto currencies, etc. How do public affairs and corporate reputation need to adapt and evolve?

In essence, all of the above trends build complexity for our clients. With climate change and ESG scrutiny continuing to increase, public affairs and corporate reputation have become less of a special function and more integral to business operations in a way they were not only a couple of years ago. Just look too at the increased attention to regulation among the investor community. All of this is framed by more interventionist governments and the need to look to multi-lateral cross-border organizations to solve for issues like crypto, AI, tax etc. Public affairs and corporate communications have to deepen sector-, issue- and client-specific expertise; focus forward not just defensively to see round corners; help high-value young businesses build communications infrastructure to match their valuations and guide mature clients through the complex web of societal expectations. What an exciting time for FTI and IRF to work together!

IRF Reputation AG
Rämistrasse 4
CH-8024 Zurich
+41 43 244 81 44

IRF Reputation in Zürich

IRF Reputation AG
Rue du Commerce 4
CH-1204 Geneva
+41 43 244 81 44

IRF Reputation in Genf