Asset consulting seems to be unusually volatile at the moment, with three of Australia’s leading firms – Willis Towers Watson, Frontier Advisors and Mercer – suffering senior staff losses in the past week.
The big surprise was the resignation of Graeme Miller, director of investment services at Willis Towers Watson, to take up the position of CIO at Telstra Super. Miller, an actuary by training, steadied the then-Towers Watson investment capability after David Neal left to become CIO of the Future Fund in 2007.
Miller was a consulting actuary at Towers Watson, which he joined from Mercer in 2000, before transferring over to the investment team in 2005. The Telstra role was vacated last November by Kim Christensen, who returned to QIC in Brisbane.
Frontier Advisors has lost long-time senior consultant Joey Alcock, who is moving with his family to London to take up a role with bfinance – the new kid on the block with the alternative business model for manager searches (see separate report).
But Alcock, who had been at Frontier for 11 years, has already been replaced, with the hiring of Greg Barr, who has been running the Melbourne office of Mercer. Barr is due to join Frontier on May 3. Frontier recruited David Carruthers from Mercer as a senior consultant last year.
Damian Moloney, Frontier chief executive, said the firm had also a recruited a replacement for Rob Hogg in the capital markets team. It is Anthony Michael, an Australian who had been working for Aberdeen Asset Management in Melbourne.
“We’d also like to expand the team a little more,” Moloney said. “We have a few more to recruit.”
Willis Towers Watson’s Andrew Boal said that he understood Miller’s career change, given that plumb roles such as the Telstra CIO do not come along very often. “It’s only sensible for people to consider their various options from time to time,” he said. He doubted whether the merger between Willis Australia and Towers Watson, of which Boal was chief executive, had any bearing on the decision.
“Willis doesn’t have any investment operations in Australia and we will not be changing it in Australia or even very much globally,” he said.
Investment consulting is run on both regional and global lines. Naomi Denning, the Hong Kong-based regional head, is involved in the search for a replacement for Miller.
* Greg Bright is publisher of Investor Strategy News (Australia)