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IPE special report May 2018

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German consultants deal could see investment arms merge

GERMANY - Watson Wyatt's planned acquisition of German pensions consultant Heissmann will not lead to any changes in top management at Heissmann, though the investment consulting arms of both firms will likely be merged, IPE has learned.

Watson Wyatt announced last week it would acquire Heissmann, Germany's leading actuarial and pensions consulting firm, for an undisclosed amount.

In the deal, Watson Wyatt is buying stakes in Heissmann held by German insurer Allianz, Buck Consultants of the US and Heissmann's partners. If cleared by regulators, the deal will be closed in early July.

As both firms offer pension, benefit and investment consulting services in Germany, industry players have been wondering how exactly Heissmann in Germany could be integrated.

Sources close to events tell IPE Heissmann will be run as a separate entity which means Heissmann will keep its base in Wiesbaden and Boy-Jürgen Andresen will continue to head the consultant for "at least two years more". Andresen, who turned 60 last year, is also chairman of German corporate pensions association aba.

"In Germany, Heissmann is the big fish and Watson Wyatt is the small one. Even though the smaller one wants to swallow the bigger one, the bigger one is in charge of how it's done," sources said.

Alfred Gohdes, managing director at Heissmann who was in charge of the consultant's foreign expansion, is also expected to remain a high-ranking executive in the future Watson Wyatt Heissmann.

Sources also say while Watson Wyatt would continue to offer benefits and pension consulting from its office in Munich, the investment consulting arms of both firms is likely to be consolidated.

Watson Wyatt began offering investment consulting in the fall of 2005 and Torsten Köpke is head of the Watson Wyatt unit, which has so far done €3.3bn worth of asset manager searches for institutional clients.

Bernd Haferstock is Köpke's counterpart at Heissmann.

How Heissmann has fared in investment consulting is unknown but industry sources believe Haferstock "was in a very secure position currently" adding Köpke might have to move his team of investment consultants from Frankfurt to Wiesbaden.

"Köpke will no doubt fight to keep his team in Frankfurt, but it probably will make more sense from a synergy standpoint to consolidate the teams in Wiesbaden," sources added.

It is also possible the Watson Wyatt and Heissmann offices in Düsseldorf, which provide human resource and benefits consulting, could be combined following the acquisition.

But a spokeswoman for Heissmann declined to comment further on implications of the deal.

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