Towers Perrin retreats from Asia consulting

When it outsourced manager research to Frank Russell, Towers lost its raison dÆetre in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Towers Perrin has effectively removed itself from investment consulting in Asia ex-Japan. In Singapore, its consultant Glen Howard has seen his position eliminated, while in Hong Kong, Jonathan Goll has resigned, leaving only Yvonne Chan to wave the consulting flag in the region.

The retreat stems from a recent agreement clinched in Australia, where Towers maintains an active business, to outsource manager research regionally to rival Frank Russell, leaving Towers to focus on asset allocation work. According to industry players, however, the Singapore office mainly just did manager research and the remaining business was too small to be sustained.

Its key client had been the Monetary Authority of Singapore, but the project to oversee investment allocations to fund managers had finished early this year. Its remaining clients have been told to find new consultants. Howard is rumoured to be joining a fund management company in Singapore.

In Hong Kong the firm has a dozen investment consulting clients, including the Hospital Authority, where Towers will try to continue providing asset allocation advice while leaving the manager research end to others, although whether clients will accept this remains up in the air.

This is good news for Watson Wyatt, which leads the Asia ex-Japan market, and its rival, Mercer Investment Consulting. Clients, however, may suffer. Towers' withdrawal won't dramatically change the consulting landscape, because Towers ran a distant third, but it does now create a firmly bipolar market with less choice. Frank Russell does not have an investment consulting presence in these markets, where it pushes its multi-manager funds business instead.

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