TURKEY – Global consulting firm Hewitt Associates is due to officially open an office in Istanbul in the summer.

The move comes amid what officials have termed an “exponential growth” in pension assets - and an overhaul of the nation’s pension system.

The new outfit will be headed by Hewitt’s long-standing Turkish representative Cengiz Gurleyik and Hewitt actuary George Kendouris.

Gurleyik will be responsible for human resource consulting while Kendouris will develop the actuarial practice.

According to Kendouris, the office will initially offer the full range of actuarial services and benefits consulting. It will also offer human resources services such as salary surveys and engagement studies.

“We are planning to expand our services to offer the full spectrum of Hewitt services in the future, subject to local needs,” he told IPE.

“Depending on local needs we are also planning to offer outsourcing to the existing pension plans in the future.”

Opportunities linked to EU membership, rapid economic growth, restructuring and forthcoming social security reforms were all cited as reasons motivating the establishment of a new office.

The office will have between four and six employees, including a senior actuary benefits consultant.

It currently has around 15 clients, including two pension funds from the banking sector.

“All cases were previously served by our Greek office and will be gradually transferred to the new Turkish office,” said Kendouris.

In other news, there has been little public awareness of Turkey’s new social security bill, which will see benefits slashed and an increase in retirement age.

The reforms – which come into affect from January 2007 following two years of government debate – form part of state plans to overhaul its costly welfare system.

“There is little, if any, public awareness of the reform package,” a local media commentator told IPE.

“There has not been wide media coverage. The only debate was at parliament and among government and opposition MPs as well as some trade union leaders which went largely went unnoticed,” the person said.

Last week IPE cited officials saying Turkey's new individual pension system is experiencing exponential growth.

"Despite its being based on the principle of voluntary participation, our country's individual pension system appears to be gathering more and more acceptance in the two years that have passed since it was launched," said Treasury Undersecretary Ibrahim Halil Canakci.