£4.3 billion MMC deal for JLT could create largest UK pensions consultancy

21 September 2018 Consultancy.uk

As UK insurance broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) braces itself for life as part of US financial services giant Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC), following the sealing of a £4.3 billion takeover, there are a number of uncertainties facing staff. Thousands of jobs could reportedly be on the line as the new ownership seeks to absorb the cost of the acquisition, but the move could also create the UK’s largest pension consultancy if it results in a merger of Mercer and the employee benefits wing of JLT.

UK’s ten largest actuarial and pension consulting firms brought in a combined revenue of almost £2 billion last year. Despite mounting pressure from regulators, Willis Towers Watson, Mercer and Aon Hewitt remained the UK’s largest nationwide actuarial and pension consultancies. Until now, the largest of these has been Willis Towers Watson, commanding a yearly revenue of £408 million. That could be about to change, however, as the market’s second-largest revenue firm, Mercer, could be on the brink of a merger that will see them top that figure by some distance.

Marsh & McLennan Companies sealed a £4.3 billion takeover of UK insurance broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson in mid-September 2018. The move has the backing of the JLT board, will net senior management pay-outs of £100 million in the process, though at the other end of the deal, MMC is expected to cut 2%-5% of the combined group's 75,000 workforce (MMC has around 65,000 staff while JLT has 10,000), meaning as many as 3,750 jobs could be lost thanks to the acquisition. The company, which holds market capital of £31 billion and owns consultancy giant Mercer, said the redundancies would come from a "broad range" of units including finance, HR, IT services, legal and administrative support.

£4.3 billion MMC deal for JLT could create largest UK pensions consultancy

At the same time, Mercer could stand to be a major beneficiary of the move. MMC said it would retain JLT's existing commitments to its defined benefit schemes, including planned deficit recovery contributions and contractually-required contributions. Should the deal result in a merger of the Mercer and JLT Employee Benefits, the combined entity will become the largest UK consulting business by turnover. According to accounts for the year end 31st December 2017, Mercer’s UK business boasted revenues of £384.3 million. JLT Benefit Solutions had a turnover of £121.3 million in the year to 31 December 2017, meaning a combined entity would have a turnover of £505.6 million, and sit comfortably atop the UK pension consulting market.

JLT Group Chief Executive Dominic Burke will join MMC as Vice-Chairman and serve as a member of its executive committee. He said of the news, "I am enormously proud of what JLT has achieved, founded on our people, our culture and our unwavering commitment to our clients. MMC is, and always has been, one of our most respected competitors and I believe that, combined, we will create a group that will truly stand as a beacon for our industry."

MMC President and Chief Executive Officer Dan Glaser said of the broader acquisition, "The complementary fit between our companies creates a platform to deliver exceptional service to clients and opportunities for our colleagues… On a personal level, I have come to know, and respect, Dominic Burke and his management team from my time both at MMC and as an underwriter.”

The deal comes as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) continues an investigation into the investment consulting market. The CMA has already ruled out an industry-wide overhaul of investment consulting in the UK, following a protracted process which has seen a number of Britain’s largest pension advisors sweating over the past 30 months, however. In its provisional decision, published in July, the watchdog said the market was not "highly concentrated."

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SQW Group purchases property-based regeneration consultancy

19 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

UK consulting firm SQW Group has completed its first acquisition since it completed a management buyout in January 2019. BBP Regeneration joins the company having collaborated with SQW for more than 20 years.

Established in 1983, SQW Group now operates all over the world. Comprising SQW, Oxford Innovation, Oxford Innovation Services – one of the UK’s leading innovation centre operators – and Oxford Investment Opportunities Network, the organisation’s origins can be traced to Britain’s two ancient university cities: Oxford, through Oxford Trust founders, Martin and Audrey Wood, and Cambridge, through SQW’s work in producing The Cambridge Phenomenon.

The consultancy specialises in public policy, working with entities from the public, private and voluntary sectors to research, develop, implement and evaluate social and economic development interventions. It now employs over 250 people across regional offices in London, Oxford and Edinburgh, and provides business support to over 4,000 entrepreneurs and small businesses each year. At the start of 2019, SQW secured its independence in a management buyout, advised on by M&A experts from Liberty Corporate Finance and Penningtons Manches.

SQW Group purchases property-based regeneration consultancy

SQW has strengthened its position as a provider of services across the business spectrum with the acquisition of BBP Regeneration. Founded in 1994, the consulting firm specialises in land and property-based regeneration and growth schemes, and is a leading social and economic development consultancy. 

The two firms first worked together over 20 years ago, when SQW and BBP collaborated to develop the first Regional Economic Strategy for the South East. More recently, they developed an economic strategy for Thanet and are now working together in locations stretching from Cwmbran via Oxfordshire to London.

With the addition of BBP, SQW can now provide an integrated advisory service for organisations developing property schemes which deliver economic benefit to their local area. By joining SQW, meanwhile, BBP hopes to further enhance its ability to support clients in delivering property and place-making ambitions. 

Speaking about the deal, SQW CEO David Crichton-Miller commented, “The UK more than ever needs solutions to the challenges of places – of high streets under threat, of meeting housing delivery targets, and of both economically over-successful and economically challenged towns and cities – and the combination of SQW and BBP is uniquely suited to developing those solutions. [This deal] brings together critical and complementary services relating to places to serve our clients with leading edge and practical advice.”

Andy Smith, Director of BBP Regeneration, added, “SQW shares with BBP the same values of seeking to provide outstanding, practical, real world advice that helps get buildings built and places developed.  We greatly look forward to the opportunities that come from joining our two organisations together.”