GLOBAL - Mercer Human Resource Consulting's chief executive Michael Caulfield is to retire and be replaced by Michele Burns, chief financial officer at parent firm Marsh & McLennan Companies.

MMC said Burns would become chairman and chief executive of the pensions and human resources consulting firm effective immediately.

Caulfield will remain with the company until the end of the year "to ensure an orderly transition". MMC treasurer Matthew Bartley will take over from Burns as CFO.

"On behalf of the entire management team, I would like to thank Michael Caulfield for his excellent leadership of Mercer Human Resource Consulting during this critical period," said MMC CEO Michael Cherkasky. "We wish him all the best in his retirement."

Caulfield's departure follows what MMC described in August as "disappointing" second-quarter profits at Mercer. Earlier this month MMC said Mercer would be one of the units that would bear some of the brunt of its decision to cut 750 jobs.

And it follows an announcement by MMC that it was considering options for its asset management arm Putnam Investments.

Burns, 48, joined MMC in March 2006. She is a director of Wal-Mart Stores and Cisco Systems and was previously executive vice president, chief restructuring officer, and chief financial officer at Mirant Corp. following the company's bankruptcy filing in 2003. She is a former CFO at Delta Air Lines. She began her career at Arthur Andersen in 1981.

"We are pleased to be announcing these important changes to our management team," Cherkasky said.

"Michele brings a compelling mix of financial acumen and managerial experience in professional services to her new role.

"She has a proven track record of successfully leading large professional teams, and her focus will be on driving Mercer HR's growth and profitability while continuing to reinforce its leadership position in HR consulting and HR products and solutions."

"I look forward to leading Mercer Human Resource Consulting during this exciting time in the company's history," Burns said.