In this month’s edition of ‘The Reputation Report’, our experts provide insights into the month’s corporate communications trends and reputational challenges. This month’s talking points include Manchester United’s handling of the Mason Greenwood situation through to the continued controversy surrounding ‘debanking’.
Mason Greenwood and Manchester United:
There has been a 1,100% increase in online and Social Media mentions of ‘Mason Greenwood’ following the news published by Adam Crafton in The Athletic and consequent fan and media backlash. Managing Director of Reputation Tim Jotischky commented:
‘Manchester United took six months to reach a decision on the future of striker Mason Greenwood, who has remained suspended since the CPS dropped charges of attempted rape, coercive behaviour and assault in February 2022 because key witnesses declined to give evidence. It conducted an extensive investigation but, by procrastinating, the Club gave the impression it was more afraid of being seen to make the wrong decision rather than being motivated by a desire to reach the right one. The Club’s statement said it was satisfied he was not guilty of the charges levelled against him, only adding to the moral ambiguity. Acting decisively at the outset would have suggested principled decision making whereas now the suspicion is the fear of a backlash from supporters, sponsors and its women team was the deciding factor’.
Another controversial issue that attracted headlines throughout August is the continued scrutiny of financial institutions and ‘Debanking’. In a testament to Nigel Farage’s continued ability to inspire conversation, what was formerly a relatively niche issue has been thrown in to the national media spotlight and public consciousness. Following the scandal with Coutts there has been a 13,700% increase in daily mentions of ‘Debanking’ across news and online media. Director of Corporate Mimi Brown commented:
‘The debanking crisis has led to financial institutions being firmly in deficit when it comes to corporate reputation.
It is ironically an issue which in part is borne from a fear-fuelled attempt to avoid problems. Instead, it has caused even more headaches in the industry.
We now learn that Government has been warned that businesses trading with Ukraine could face being kicked into the banking wilderness – even over one transaction. The media senses yet more mileage in this story, with one alarming report by Bloomberg focusing on the lives it says have been ruined in the UK’s Muslim Communities. Statistics reported by Bloomberg show this section of the community to be more affected by the issue than any other group.
When it comes to Ukraine, banks have briefed to stress they must comply with sanctions imposed on Russia. No one denies the complexities, but at the heart of the situation is a serious lack of consideration from day one when it comes to how this was always destined to play out. Sound Corporate Affairs strategies and advice would have painted a firm picture of how decisions would be perceived in the real world – which is a million miles away from the oak-panelled boardrooms and committee rooms of financial institutions.
Sense checks are needed more now than ever, and those banks not yet directly named in relation to the issue will want to quickly learn the lessons of their colleagues in order to avoid headlines’.
This scandal has contributed to only 14% of Brits describing themselves as ‘very confident’ in the country’s banking institutions. This has raised conversation about what it means for both businesses and the Government. Divisional Managing Director of Corporate Neil McLeod commented:
‘Businesses now face debanking owing to trading relationships with Ukraine from risk-averse financial institutions, building upon the long-running saga involving the former UKIP and Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage’s relationships with private banks Coutts. As Ukraine faces a conflict with Russia, business leaders have warned that any debanking concerns could lead to further economic suffering in the country.
It is vital that businesses engage with political stakeholders and regulators around the issue of trade with Ukraine. Calls to include the issue of foreign trade in the recently begun review into politically exposed persons must be monitored closely by business leaders seeking to trade with the country.
There will be increasing pressure on Government Ministers to urgently address issues relating to debanking for these reasons, with further headaches expected for the Government on issues relating to financial institutions processes. This is especially poignant given the Government’s strident support for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion and with the backdrop of overwhelming public support for the country.
It is crucial that industry and Government come together, bringing a blend of expertise in order to implement a strategy and regulation that appropriately address issues relating to debanking and allow businesses to trade with close economic and political allies. This will need to be urgently addressed by both Government and business owing to the potential gravity of severing economic ties with Ukraine’.
What’s in store for September?