Willis Towers Watson builds on operational capability

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Willis Towers Watson has built up its consulting capabilities for operational issues for its client funds with the appointment of Greg Murphy as ‘manager, product and operations’. He was, most recently, a divisional director at Macquarie.

Murphy has responsibility for managing the operational aspects of delegated client portfolios, reporting to Aongus O’Gorman, the head of ‘delegated and specialist solutions’. O’Gorman said: “Willis Towers Watson is committed to providing high quality solutions to meet the investment and operational needs of asset owners in Australia. This spans across investment governance, asset consulting and delegated services…”

He said there had been strong interest in Willis Towers Watson’s ‘delegated’ capabilities in Australia. “We’ve won two significant new mandates in the last year,” he said. “We are committed to offering and expanding our service and Greg’s appointment reflects this.”

For the uninitiated, the old Towers Perrin was the first consulting firm in Australia to develop the capability to advise on operational, securities servicing and implementation issues for big super funds. That division was headed by the late David Taplin, a larger-than-life character who recruited two ‘smart young things’, as he called them, – Margaret Bishop, now an executive at BNP Paribas, and Wendy Leong, now an executive at the Future Fund. The former Intech Investment Consulting and then Mercer Sentinel followed suit with similar capabilities.

At the time, in the late 1980s, State Street had pioneered the introduction of master custody in Australia, after setting up shop here in 1986, and quickly built up a position as the largest player in the new market. Taplin – with Margaret Bishop and Wendy Leong – managed to convince a lot of super funds to go to tender for this service and, as a result, ended up taking business away from State Street and distributing it more widely. In a sense, Taplin helped develop what has become a thriving competitive environment for securities services in Australia.

Willis Towers Watson has been gradually introducing in Australia a service which looks to unite various client backoffice needs so that they can benefit more from scale due to the participation of their collegiate funds. In the spirit of the times, it’s about reducing costs.

– G.B.

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