Sedgwick Noble Lowndes (SNL) has dramatically boosted its coverage of Southern Europe with the formation of a joint venture, providing employee benefits and pensions consulting, with the benefits practice of regional insurance broker Nikols.

The new venture known as Nikols Sedgwick Noble Lowndes will have offices in Milan, Turin, Venice, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon and Athens as well as some centres in Latin America.

This is the second venture between the two groups and follows on from one announced late last year between the insurance brokerage parent companies of Sedgwick Group and Nikols.

We will have full consulting capabilities in all the countries in which Nikols operate," says David Strauss, chairman of the SNL Group.

"We are very excited about the joint venture in that it has enabled us to grow rapidly in markets which from a consultancy perspective have been relatively slow growing.

It is particularly exciting with some of the developments that are taking place in the pensions area, something we are quite bullish about," he adds.

Turning to the Italian example in particular, and noting Nikols strong coverage in the north of the country, he says: "We had a business in Italy which was going well but we never really had the critical mass to enable us to grow in the meaningful way in which we wanted to. We now have that critical mass."

Strauss adds that merger fits in with the strategy that the company has been pursuing for the last few years, where SNL has concentrated in putting together a network providing pensions and other advisory services to clients across Europe.

The interests in Italy, Spain and Portugal have already been merged with others to follow. The new offices will operate in tandem with Paris-based Sedgwick Noble Lowndes European Consulting which provides specialist input for the local companies in investment consulting. John Lappin"