International firms are still dominating the Portuguese consultancy market providing benefits and investment consulting such as performance measurement, manager selection and ALM studies. Watson Wyatt and William M Mercer are leaders in a market which has just lost an important player as Towers Perrin closed down its office in Lisbon and will from now control their Portuguese operations from Madrid.
"It is still a very demanding competitive market," says Bernie Thomas, senior actuary at Watson Wyatt in Lisbon. "But we are very optimistic that there is quite a lot of work to be done just with our existing clients and the potential to gain new clients is out there. ALM studies have shown quite a large increase in demand over the last 12 months. That’s an area where we’ve seen tremendous growth for ourselves," he says.
The kind of actuarial services that consultants are now providing were previously done by fund managers and insurance companies. "I believe clients have realised over the years that due to the inherent conflict of interests in asking a fund manager to provide an actuarial evaluation that an independent advise was the right way to go," Thomas says. "We’ve been able to bring to the market is our global expertise, and knowledge of other countries’ situations."
Portuguese pension funds are more and more looking for information products in the compensation and benefits areas. "The benefits related market for consultants may be increasing at a rate of 20%," says Pedro Sommer, country head at William Mercer Portugal.
"Local players are working at the local market. But I don’t see major local activity in benefits nor in the more traditional HR area. In general the situation for consultants could be described as a reinforcement of our services in the area of retirement and a new push in terms of investment consulting," Sommer says. Paula Garrido