The wholly owned Sansome Group subsidiary will be based in San Francisco, and will initially handle the direct accounts of Charles Schwab & Co. and L.A. Cellular.
"We've got some pretty unique capabilities at our company," said Bronner CEO David Kenny. "This enables us to take some of that learning and apply it to a broader set of clients in the West."
It also enables Bronner to work with Schwab and L.A. Cellular without disrupting existing relationships with American Express Co. and AT&T Corp.
HENDELL IS ACTING PRESIDENT
Reuben Hendell, an exec VP and partner at Bronner based in New York, is acting president of the Sansome Group; he will spend most of his time on the West Coast while looking for someone to run the subsidiary.
This is the second time Bronner has set up an independent unit in part to deal with client conflicts. Its Boston-based Strategic Interactive Group was formed in 1995 to handle Internet accounts.
While Bronner handles Enron, a Houston-based utilities company, SIG handles Green Mountain Power, a Vermont energy services provider.
When Bronner won the Schwab account in September, it agreed to set up a separate subsidiary to handle the business.
`IS SOME CONFLICT'
"There is, on the margin, some conflict between Schwab and American Express," said Mr. Kenny. "We're working with [Schwab] to help define the brand for their customer segments and redesign their communications."
In addition to the clients it will initially serve, Sansome will be free to pitch new business. The unit will initially have 15 staffers, but "we expect to ramp up by the end of the year to about 40 people," Mr. Hendell said.
One industry observer said Bronner needs to be sure Sansome has a reason for being beyond avoiding a client conflict.
The success of the set-up depends on the clients involved, said Abe Jones, managing director at investment banker AdMedia Partners.
"It works, but it doesn't work particularly well if it's designed around one account. If you set it up for that purpose and you lose that partner, you have a lot of people with nothing to do," he said.
OTHER CLIENTS ON HORIZON
There are already discussions with at least two other potential clients for Sansome, Mr. Kenny said. He declined to name them, but said target client categories include retail, travel and entertainment.
"This is really going to be about growing new clients on the West Coast," he said. "We hope to expand our roster of clients over the next several months."
Contributing: Mercedes M. Cardona.