GLOBAL - Watson Wyatt's new series of conferences, replacing the Global Asset Study (GAS) conference, will operate free of charge in the UK and theUS, while there will be a "cost covering charge" to attend these eventselsewhere globally.
The new series of events entitled Watson Wyatt Ideas Exchange will berolled out later this year, replacing the GAS programme, which concludes at the end of June 2005.
Watson Wyatt decided to shelve its GAS programme, which charged an annual subscription fee, to avoid any potential “conflicts of interest”. The GAS conferences were used by the company to provide global research on investment issues and generate new ideas with the industry.
Roger Urwin, Watson Wyatt’s global head of investment consulting, explained: “The investment world is not homogeneous country to country and there are different practices that apply. The UK and the US are kind of the outliers because the perceptions that there is a conflict has become fairly significant, and for that reason the UK and the US are treated on a basis that is really quite challenging for us financially because the costs we incur in running these events are really quite significant.
“So we do think that the UK and the US need special treatment. Elsewhere the market place is more comfortable with the idea that provided we are 100% transparent and everyone understands the basis of which any charges are levied, it is fair. We are emphasising this through covered costs and it’s not at all controversial in other markets to pass on per event fees, which is the basis on which we would do it.”
The Watson Wyatt Ideas Exchange events incorporates a series of smallevents, such as round tables, held across the world with a common themefocussing on new investment opportunities.
The new conferences, like GAS, will be a three-way event involving consultants, asset managers and pension funds. The first of the conferences is expected to kick-off in October in Melbourne, followed by a conference in the UK in November.
Urwin said that GAS programmes were run on a “non-profit basis” and thenew series of events would be a “cost” to the firm.
“This is all part of managing a profitable practice [and] we think that this is something that is a cost to the practice. [The company] has to manage its bottom-line on a holistic basis [and] this is just a cost of doing effective business,” he said. “We are at a tipping point in the investment industry with so many new ideas coming to the fore.
“There are so many challenges facing institutional funds at the moment and we are excited to have such a large number of opportunities to meet with people to push things forward.”
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