UK - Paul Thornton, former Watson Wyatt director and senior industry figure, has been appointed managing director of the pensions arm of specialist and independent financial advisory firm Gazelle.

Thornton, 55, will head Gazelle’s pensions advisory team along with Gazelle director Donald Fleming.

Gazelle chief executive officer Paul Cahill told IPE that the group was also actively recruiting for a third team member.

Gazelle’s pensions business – established roughly a year ago – was set up in response to the regulatory need for pension fund trustees to obtain independent financial advice when negotiating with a sponsor company about deficit recovery plans or corporate events which could impact on the sponsor’s covenant.

Commenting on the appointment Thornton said: “Effective management of pension liabilities in an affordable fashion has become a crucial issue for many businesses and pension trustees.”

Thornton retired from Watson Wyatt earlier this year,and was due to “pursue other opportunities”, according to a filing at the Securities and Exchange Commission at the time.

During a 32 year career with Watson Wyatt, he held a number of senior positions, acting as scheme actuary to schemes with assets of £50bn overall.

He was senior partner from 2001 – 2005, and oversaw the combination of Watson Wyatt LLP and Watson Wyatt & Co in 2005. He was also president of the Institute of Actuaries (1998-2000) and has been closely involved in the International Actuarial Association.

Gazelle chairman and former Deutsche Morgan Grenfell corporate financier Simon Willes said: “We are delighted that someone of Paul’s stature and reputation in the pensions industry is joining Gazelle to lead our Pensions Advisory team.”

According to Thornton, “The new pension regulations represent a sea-change in the approach to pension financing and the provision of independent advice to pension trustees and employers has never been so vitally important.”

Gazelle celebrated its tenth anniversary in August. It offers a range of corporate finance and debt advisory services to its corporate, trustee and other clients.