Willis Towers Watson has shuffled the leadership of its investment division in Asia, in a move that appears to strengthen the consultancy’s focus on core markets in the region.

Naomi Denning, the long-standing head of Asia-Pacific investment consulting, will leave her post in Hong Kong next month in a long-planned move to Canada with her family.

Tokyo-based Taro Ogai will replace her on July 1. He has been with WTW for 14 years, most recently leading efforts to build the company’s investment solutions team in Japan and servicing large clients.

In addition, Jayne Bok becomes head of investments for Asia, excluding Japan and Australia, reporting to Ogai. As such, Bok takes on an expanded role, retaining her previous responsibilities as Asia head of sovereign advisory. 

 Taro Ogai

Meanwhile, Denning, who has spent 23 years with WTW, told AsianInvestor she would continue with WTW for an extended period after Ogai takes over to ensure a smooth transition.

She said she would subsequently take a short break to recharge and help her family settle in before starting work again. Denning expects to stay in the investment field and plans to explore opportunities to find the best fit for her skills.

Core market focus

WTW locating its Asia-Pacific head of investment consulting in Tokyo would seem to underscore Japan’s importance to the division, something that had been signalled earlier this year.

The move comes after Peter Ryan-Kane left his role as Asia-Pacific head of portfolio advisory in March and has since set up his own investment consultancy, PeRK Advisory. At WTW he had focused on developing business in smaller markets such as Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.

  Jayne Bok

WTW has now decided to put more emphasis on existing clients in bigger Asian markets such as China, Japan and South Korea.

The firm is also seeking to transition from a pure advisory business to one offering investment solutions incorporating both advice and execution.

Consultancy changes

WTW is not the only investment consultancy making changes 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.

Rival consultancy Mercer has seen several senior investment executives in Asia and global heads of business lines depart since it implemented a worldwide restructuring late last year, as AsianInvestor reported last month. 

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.