SWITZERLAND – Hewitt Associates has hired the president of the Swiss Pension Fund Federation, Hermann Walser.

Walser will step down from ASIP, the Association Suisse des Institutions de Prévoyance, and join Zurich-based PRASA Hewitt, the Swiss arm of consultant Hewitt, in May. He will work part-time for Hewitt and partly as a judge.

Hewitt spokesman Charles Donkor said the firm created "a job to suit his high profile". "He is probably the most important person in terms of pension funds legislation," Donkor said.

In his role as legal consultant Walser “will work on aspects of corporate governance within pension funds,” Hewitt said in a statement. Hewitt said, Walser would continue his activities in the field of social security in the Zurich canton. It was not immediately clear who his replacement would be.

“With the appointment of Hermann Walser, Hewitt has recruited one of the most influential and most experienced expert in the fields of law and pension funds in Switzerland,” said Roland Schmid, PRASA Hewitt’s marketing manager.

Walser has been president of ASIP, which represents 1,300 members, since its foundation in 1998.

Hewitt said ASIP represents 2.2 million workers and about 300 billion Swiss francs (190.1 billion euros) in assets.

Walser was also managing director of the Swiss Association of Private Financial Fund, Schweizerische Verband fuer Privatwirtschaftlische Personalversorge, from 1969 to 1997.

Earlier this month rival firm Mercer named Ecofin’s Sven Ebeling as head of investment consulting in Switzerland, following its acquisition of the Swiss benefit consulting business of KPMG for an undisclosed sum in December.

Last month Hewitt Associates said its consulting income fell 14% in the first quarter – but said its competitive position was “as strong as ever”.

Meanwhile, research conducted by Watson Wyatt for ASIP has found that the median return for Swiss pension funds in 2003 was 9.5%. That figure compares to InterSec’s estimate that Swiss funds returned nine percent in 2003.

Watson analysed more than 600 mandates valued at more than 100 billion Swiss francs.