60 Seconds with Tom Coombes, Cognito

Tom Coombes, CEO and founder at finance-focused PR and marketing firm Cognito, talks to Gorkana about his experiences managing an international agency, the challenges he has faced and his plans for the final quarter of the year.  

Tom Coombes 1

Tom Coombes

What have been the biggest challenges in the building and maintaining of an international consultancy?
It’s all about the people and making sure that our staff are happy. We want our people to work on projects they want to work on. As you grow an international consultancy, attracting and maintaining diverse and brilliant talent is a big job. We are constantly challenging ourselves as an agency to create more professional development opportunities and investments in our staff. It’s a good challenge to have and we’re happy to take it on.

Why was it important for you to have an international presence?
By nature financial services is international, and we want to be able to offer coverage to our clients in their core markets. Very shortly after opening our doors in London, we saw a need to be in the US. We love the clients we work with and want their goals to be coordinated seamlessly across their global markets. By servicing clients in multiple regions, we can become a true partner.

You oversee technology and services for Cognito, what does that entail?
Technology is being applied to almost every sector to make processes and performance easier. That’s why we have a focus in this area as well as in financial services. Cognito provides services across the marketing and communications spectrum that are underpinned by data. Our proprietary tools Cognito Analytics and Comtela, a financial social platform, allow us to offer our clients more, without having to bring in an additional vendor.

What’s unique about comms in the financial sector? What are the challenges?
We work in regulated sectors. This puts clients in a unique position and limits what they can and can’t share. It’s tricky and can be a hard area to navigate if you don’t know the space. We understand their challenges and act as a daily extension of their team. Our clients like this because they don’t have to teach us the fundamentals of their business, we’re already on the same page. Generalist agencies can’t do this as well and often aren’t aware of the pitfalls and barriers.

What do you wish you had more time for?
My kids. I travel a lot, sometimes too much, and I would like more time with them. Beyond that, spending time outdoors, hiking and playing tennis. My golf clubs are also a little too dusty for my liking.

What are your plans for the rest of 2016?
Hard to believe it’s Q4 already! We’re heavily into planning for 2017 with clients. We also have some important events for clients in Q4 including a seminar on Media Strategies for 2017 which we are holding in London on November 16th. In December we hold client receptions and holiday parties in all regions.

Being a global CEO takes me abroad often and I will probably be in Singapore on Halloween, which is a real shame to miss in the US.

  • Tom Coombes founded Cognito around 16 years ago. The finance-focused PR firm now has offices is LA, Hong Kong, London and NYC. See here for Gorkana’s interview with Cognito’s Singapore MD Tim Williamson. 
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