During the last year the pensions and investment markets of central and eastern Europe have begun to live up to the expectations tagged to them over the last decade, and consequently the consultancy arena has seen increased action, particularly on the administration and human resources (HR) side. And offshoots into the smaller markets such as Kazakstan and Lithuania are also getting off the ground as the funding culture gains credence.
Performance measurement and more technical investment consulting is also starting to appear on the scene, although it remains predominately the preserve of multinationals.
In the Czech Republic, the major players are all present alongside a number of local operators backed by'big brother' foreign companies.
One exception is independent Prague-based consultant Personnel. Igor Tomes, chief consultant at the firm, says: The Czech consultancy market is still very much an employee benefits realm, but as Emu membership looms on the horizon, we are, and will increasingly see more ad-vanced services on offer. But there are very few truly Czech companies and the population is only 2m, so the market will remain fairly small." In Hungary the combined Mercer/ SNL group dominates proceedings, with London law firm Cameron Mc-Kenna holding a strong advisory niche and a few local players dabbling in administration services. According to Keith Exall, head of the European and eastern European consultancy team at Mercer, the Hungarian scene is very bouyant: "Business in performance reporting and scheme design is coming thick and fast in Hungary with the market also showing very healthy returns, so the year ahead looks exciting."
Poland, which many have been 'waiting to happen' for years, has finally happened, with the scramble for advisory business in the country's third pillar hotting up, and expectation rising over the April start of the ZUS open fund system and a large section of Poland's 40m population needing investment advice. Scheme design and administration are currently driving consultancy services, but many predict that as the country's pension's infrastructure settles, the running for business will be hard and fast with the consultancy provisions to match, particularly as Poland has few regulatory hurdles to stumble on.
And Slovakia, where the sole third pillar pensions market sprang up in 1996 is generating some retirement and taxation consulting, although investment consultancy is still limited. Hugh Wheelan"