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The benefits of Mercer Marsh

Published on Friday, 20 Apr 2012
Rosaline Koo
Asia-Pacific leader, Mercer Marsh Benefits
Photo: Berton Chang

Part of the Marsh McLennan Group, Mercer and Marsh have long been regarded as two of the world’s leading consulting firms. Both are known for offering a wide range of advisory services on everything from employee compensation to mergers and acquisitions. As of late, however, one of these areas was repackaged under a new and unified brand name, Mercer Marsh Benefits, through which many of the health and wellness solutions of both companies will be provided. Rick Gangwani talks to Asia-Pacific leader Rosaline Koo about the rationale behind the new approach.

What was the thinking behind the creation of the new brand?
Mercer and Marsh have been working together in many markets for more than 50 years. We wanted to formalise this relationship through the launch of the Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) brand in order to communicate to the market the advantages of working with us in the area of employee health and benefits.

What types of services are you offering under the new brand?
The services MMB will offer multinational headquarters and local operations around the world include global and regional benefits management, international benefits consulting, and local brokerage services.

How do these services differ from those previously offered by the Mercer and Marsh brands independently?
While these services were available before the MMB  brand was launched, pulling them together under this brand helps provide clarity for corporate human resources directors and risk managers, and reminds them that they are a single network.

How will the workload be allocated between the staff at Mercer and the staff at Marsh? 
Mercer and Marsh have different footprints in different countries. The most qualified and appropriate benefits professionals from either Mercer or Marsh will be assigned to work with clients in specific markets. For multinational assignments, all work across countries will be co-ordinated through a single point of contact.

Were there any internal transfers made to help launch the brand?
Not to launch the new brand, but we have actually moved a lot of people to Asia from Europe, the United States and Canada to build  up the business. Looking forward, we will likely continue moving people to Asia given the pace of growth here. We grew 700 per cent over the last seven years, and we plan to double again over the next three years.

I imagine you would have to hire externally as well then?
Oh, yes. As we double in size, we’re going to bring in people with many different skill sets and levels of experience. We’re also going to bring in some management trainees and interns so as to allow us to grow our own.

What type of experience might be most valuable for someone looking to work for you?
What we focus on is benefits for large employers. So in terms of their skills and background, we’re looking for people who  understand benefits, who  understand healthcare. In terms of the sales and consulting background, they could have worked on anything linked to sales or benefits.

What is your key focus now in terms of the Asia-Pacific region?
What we’re really focused on now is being first to market with innovation. What we want to do now is to bring what we innovate out here in Asia before taking it out to the West.

What are some of the new innovations that  Mercer is currently rolling out across Asia?
What we’re working on now is something we call “the gateway to employee healthcare.” We want to be able to aggregate all of the providers of employee benefits and wellness solutions in each country. That would include all of the largest insurance providers, as well as all of the hospitals and clinics in a country.

So the new employees you hire will likely be offering this solution to clients?
That’s right. And the clients they work with will not only include the largest multinationals across the region, but also the domestic conglomerates.

In terms of your remit, are there any booming geographical areas at the moment?
Even though we operate in 14 countries, what’s been really hot right now is China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia.

Would someone looking to join your team need to have had experience in one or more of these markets?
Well, we rotate our teams a lot. So we move people between the countries. We also offer regional solutions that cover all 14 countries. So a lot of our staff will learn about the region when they come here. A lot of our clients our regionals.

But in the countries I mentioned, we’ve been growing the most. So we’ve been adding staff a lot in Greater China, as well as Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. So Southeast Asia and Greater China are growing very quickly.

Where do you spend most of your time these days?
Well, I was in Hong Kong recently. I used to spend a lot of time in India, but unfortunately I go to New York quite often – four times a year. Probably Greater China [and] Southeast Asia are where I spend most of my time.

Which parts of the business do you spend most of your time on?
New product development. What we’re doing is pretty interesting. We’re not only aggregating these networks, but we’re also actually bundling an end-to-end solution.

If you think about Apple, it has not only built the iPad, iPhone and everything else, but it also thought about the music, the internet, the books. So what we’re doing is we are trying to build an end-to-end solution so we can be the gateway. We’re looking to build a cashless network, country by country, where we aggregate all of the benefits with choice and with wellness.
This is not only for companies that want to buy insurance, but also for those that are self-insured so that their employees don’t have to worry about submitting claims and waiting for reimbursements.

What we want to do is to be able to be cashless so that they can get healthcare and wellness education there. But based on the questions that they answer about their wellness and life stage, we can make recommendations on what kind of benefits they can choose and the wellness programmes they need in case they do have health risks.

So I spend most of my time developing different types of solutions that we believe the market is ready for, especially as we make it affordable for employees of companies.
This sounds like a massive undertaking.
It is. We’re about to invest substantially in Asia. We’ve grown so much without investments, so you can imagine if we build this end-to-end aggregator that’s a gateway to healthcare in all the major countries where we have a huge coalition of employers, the purchasing power we will have with these networks will allow us to offer choice.

So you can have employees who are really young who might not want to buy insurance. They would be able to trade that insurance offering for wellness education or say, gym time or even iPads – that’s what we’re building.

Is finding the talent to carry out these plans going to be a challenge?
Exactly. This is why I need to bring in talent, even straight from schools through internships. We need to groom our own and grow our own. We can’t buy enough talent out there. Since we’ve grown by 700 per cent, we’ve already hired everyone with experience.

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