Mercer to appoint Bala Viswanathan Chief Operating Officer

10 December 2018 3 min. read
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Global HR consultancy Mercer has announced that Bala Viswanathan – CEO of JLT’s UK & Ireland Employee Benefits practice – will become the firm’s COO and a member of the Global Executive Leadership Team. The move will take effect upon closure of the $5.6 billion acquisition of London-based insurance broker and benefits consultancy JLT by Mercer parent company Marsh & McLennan. The transaction, slated to close in the spring, remains subject to a number of antitrust and regulatory approvals.

In September, Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC) – the parent company of Marsh, Guy Carpenter, Oliver Wyman, and Mercer – announced a $5.6 billion deal to acquire Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group (JLT). The FTSE 250 company provides insurance, reinsurance, and employment benefits advisory and broking services. JLT was formed in 1997 when Jardine Insurance Brokers merged with Lloyd Thompson Group. At the time of the transaction announcement, JLT operated in 40 countries, with particular strength in the UK and Australia.

JLT’s Employee Benefits business includes pension and retirement services; health, risk, and benefits; investment services; and wealth management – all areas that would stack up well to integration with Mercer’s business. Meanwhile, JLT’s insurance, reinsurance, and risk management businesses align with Marsh and Guy Carpenter’s capabilities.

The transaction, if successful, will eliminate a main competitor to Mercer in the UK pension advisory market, while also helping out Marsh and Guy Carpenter in the insurance arena. According to MMC, the move will accelerate the group’s strategy to be the preeminent global firm in the areas of risk, strategy, and people.

Mercer appoints Bala Viswanathan as Chief Operating Officer

The JLT deal, which was aided by a $5.2 billion loan from Goldman Sachs, is expected close in the spring of 2019, subject to antitrust and regulatory approval. Together, consultancies Aon Hewitt, Willis Towers Watson, and Mercer command about half of investment consultancy revenues in the UK.

In September, MMC announced that Dominic Burke, Group Chief Executive of JLT, would join the group as Vice Chairman and serve as a member of MMC’s Executive Committee, pending deal closure.

Now, Mercer has announced that Bala Viswanathan – JLT’s CEO of the UK&I Employee Benefits practice – will become its chief operating officer, if/when the $5.6 billion acquisition goes through. Viswanathan joined JLT in 2006 as the CEO of Operations in India and was subsequently appointed Group Director for Business Process Management, based in Mumbai. While there, he was instrumental in establishing JLT’s shared services center in Mumbai, growing the center to 1,400 people.

In 2014, Viswanathan was promoted to Group COO, and joined the Group Executive Committee in London. In 2015, he was appointed CEO of the UK Employee Benefits business.

In his new role as Mercer COO, Viswanathan will work across the firm’s operations to drive enhancements in its offshore, technology, and systems capabilities. He will report to Mercer President and CEO Julio Portalatin.

“Pending the outcome of the regulatory process, we look forward to welcoming Bala to Mercer in this strategically important role,” commented Portalatin. “His successful career at JLT and his understanding of both operations and the global employee benefits market will further enhance our industry leadership, client relationships, and organizational effectiveness. He will be a valued addition to Mercer’s executive team.”