Business heads exit Mercer after restructure

Several investment business heads have left the consultancy following a group-wide shakeup. They include two executives in Asia and the global head of alternatives.
Business heads exit Mercer after restructure

Mercer has seen a number of senior investment executives in Asia and global heads of business lines depart since it implemented a worldwide restructuring late last year. The investment consultancy has consequently re-assigned various roles, AsianInvestor can reveal.

Those who have left include Deborah Bannon and Soon Kian Lee, heads of the North and Southeast Asia investment businesses, respectively; Simon Coxeter, a Singapore-based principal overseeing multi-asset strategies; Jeff Schutes, Atlanta-based global alternatives business leader; and Phil De Cristo, Boston-based president of investments.

Bannon, Soon, Schutes and De Cristo will not be directly replaced.

The shakeup came in a tough climate that has already seen several global asset and wealth managers cut back in Asia or agree mergers with a view to improving cost-efficiency.

Mercer, which advises numerous institutional investors and wealth managers, has merged its investment and retirement divisions into the newly named wealth business, effective from January.

Mercer said it implemented the restructuring to simplify its "matrix structure". This has resulted in the elimination of several senior roles at both market business leader and regional business leader level, a source familiar with the firm told AsianInvestor.

Another reason for the move was to give local country heads more power and autonomy, said a Mercer spokeswoman. Rather than individual business lines, such as investment consulting, reporting into both separate heads and country leaders, they will all now simply report into the local leader for the wealth business.

 Deborah Bannon has left Mercer

Next moves

Bannon left Mercer at the end of 2016 and is thought to be taking time off to consider her next move. She had spent six years at Mercer, and her previous employers included Pioneer Global Investments and insurer Royal & Sun Alliance. Bannon declined to comment when contacted by AsianInvestor.

Soon also left Mercer in December and has since joined Pacific Eagle Asset Management, a Singapore-based family office, as a managing director. He had spent a decade at Mercer and prior to that a year at UTI Asset Management and 17 years at Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, according to his LinkedIn page. Soon did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Coxeter joined Franklin Templeton in Singapore last month as its first Asia head of investment solutions (as first reported by AsianInvestor), after seven years at Mercer. The company has since hired Adrian Worth as a manager research executive in Hong Kong to cover multi-asset strategies and Asian hedge funds.

Schutes left on March 31 after 21 years with Mercer, having most recently held the role of global alternatives business leader since April 2016. Before that, he headed the investments business for growth markets, comprising Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

Re-assigned responsibilites

There have been several changes to other executives' roles as a result of the reorganisation.

Rich Nuzum, North America business leader for investments, was named global wealth leader for growth markets in January. New York-based Nuzum has worked at Mercer for 25 years, including in Asia for 11 years as regional business leader for investment consulting.

Billy Wong, formerly country leader for Hong Kong, is now wealth business leader for Hong Kong, China and Korea. Lisa Sun takes over as Hong Kong head in addition to her role as zone leader for Asia.

Garry Hawker is now wealth business leader for Singapore. He retains his previous roles as director of strategic research for growth markets, zone business coordinator for Asia ex-Japan and country leader for Singapore.

Finally, Jacques Goulet is now global president for health and wealth at Mercer, based in New York. Before the restructuring, he was global president for health and retirement and has been with the firm for 27 years.

Restructuring rationale

The creation of the new wealth business line reflects the fact that Mercer's clients “increasingly require broader, multi-disciplinary support delivered in an integrated fashion and with a holistic perspective”, said the spokeswoman in an email.

“Increasingly, clients’ needs are less about traditionally defined or siloed ‘investment’ or ‘retirement’ problems,” she added. “More often we are helping them with solutions to questions and challenges that require application of not only investments or retirement expertise, but also insurance, consumer behavioural economics and other specialist disciplines.”

Rival investment consultancy Willis Towers Watson is also changing its approach in Asia, which resulted in a senior departure this year.

Peter Ryan-Kane left his post as Asia-Pacific head of portfolio advisory last month, as the consultancy moved to focus more on ‘core’ regional markets and less on certain emerging markets. He has since set up his own investment consultancy, PeRK Advisory.

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