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Keilthy strikes out on his own Back  
Stockbroker John Keilthy is leaving the industry after 18 years to set up a reputation management company, which, he says, will help firms ‘lock the door before the horse has bolted’ by taking due consideration of all stakeholders when making key decisions.
TThe area of reputation management is going to become increasingly significant as regulation tightens and as the multiple stakeholders in companies become ever more vocal in expressing their views on boardroom decisions, says NCB’s chief operating officer, John Keilthy, who is leaving the firm in March to set up his own reputation consultancy. Keilthy has been with NCB for the past 18 years and was a key participant in last year’s management buy-out (MBO). Kielthy says that he chose this year to strike out on his own because, as part of the MBO team, he wanted to see it comfortably bedded in before exiting, a process which he felt had occurred towards the end of last year.

Explaining his decision, he said, ‘The combination of my pre-NCB background in financial journalism, an exposure to institutional shareholders, to retail shareholders and then my general interaction with the business community in my 18 years with NCB, would have given me a reasonable insight into the business community. Over the years I developed a lot of knowledge of those particular areas, and the other issue was that I felt that there was an opening in the market to provide a service at a director/ board level in terms of reputation management.’

‘I think also that reputation managements and the protection of reputation has gone up the agenda of companies. People now realise that reputational capital is a very tangible asset that companies have and that it needs to be insured; it needs to be protected, it needs to be managed and they’re the kinds of areas I feel offer the opportunities in terms of what I want to focus on,’ he added.

At present, while some public relations firms (PR) offer types of reputation management, Kielthy claimed that it is all to often of the ‘band-aid’ type, managing crises rather than preventing them. ‘Reputation management is about closing the stable door before the horse has bolted. It’s really trying to have an impact and influence on decisions at the earlier stage, and specifically in terms of determining the impact of business decisions of organisations on all stakeholders,’ he said.

I think what happens in organisations is that sometimes the right hand doesn’t necessarily know what the left hand is doing in terms of the impact decisions can have on the totality of stakeholders, so really this is trying to bring this whole issue to the boardroom as distinct from it being executed within ‘silos’ in organisations where sometimes the bigger picture isn’t seen and short term benefits can be achieved but maybe doing more long term damage that only manifests itself generally in the form of some crises at a later stage,’ he added.

According to Kielthy, the time has now passed when executives have a choice in deciding whether or not to
look at how their decisions impact various stakeholders. ‘I think they have to look at all aspects now. I think the experiences of the last number of years in terms of the damage that has been done to some of the greatest brand names, not only in our own country, but across the board, is evidence of the dangers of not taking into account the interests of all stakeholders. I think it is something that companies are increasingly aware of.’

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