Masters of HR

Tracing its roots back as far as 1878, Watson Wyatt has a long history of consulting work in the actuarial field; long enough, in fact, that it was offering consulting-style services before the term "consulting" even existed.  These days, operating out of more than 108 offices in 34 countries, the company provides human capital and financial management consulting services, advising clients on such issues as compensation, retirement, health care, insurance and investment plans.  The firm prides itself on "putting clients first"â€"an approach that it says "means many things," be it "moving quickly" or "moving mountains."  One thing the firm says it always means, however, is that it consults with clients, rather than at them.

The company operates through five segments: benefits, technology and administration solutions, human capital, investment consulting, and insurance and financial services.  The benefits practice is by far the largest, accounting for more than half of all annual revenue.  The segment’s offerings include the design and management of benefit programs, actuarial services such as funding and risk management strategies, expatriate and international human resource strategies, such as transfer policies and compensation mirroring, mergers and acquisitions advising, and assistance with compliance and governance.  The other four segments together make up the remaining portion of Watson Wyatt's offerings, with each contributing somewhere between seven and 12 percent of annual revenue.

W + W = Quadruple U?

As mentioned above, Watson Wyatt traces its roots back to 1878, when one Reuben Watson started a small actuarial firm in Londonâ€"an outfit recognized today as the world's oldest actuarial company.  That little enterprise grew to be one of the most respected establishments in the U.K. through its work with the government on social insurance plans.  As its reputation grew over the years, so did Watson's family; so much so that by the middle of the 20th century, Watson & Sons was one of the most recognized names in the European consulting world.  The other half of Watson Wyattâ€"The Wyatt Company, founded in the United States in 1946â€"also began as an actuarial concern, but later expanded its services into health care and compensation consulting.

Over the latter half of the 20th century, both The Wyatt Company and Watson & Sons continued to grow and expand their reach in an increasingly global economyâ€"an economy that meant the two firms were coming into the other's sphere of influence more and more.  Spotting an opportunity for a unique alliance, 1995 saw the two joined together in a partnership that separated the company into two branches covering different geographic segments.  Watson Wyatt & Company looked after the North American and Asia Pacific markets, while Watson Wyatt Partners covered Europe.  The collaboration was an immediate success, with the joint concern's earnings growing by 30 percent in the first year alone.  Indeed, Watson Wyatt & Company's business grew so much over the next five years that the firm made the decision to launch an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in 2000.  The firm's stock has traded there under the ticker symbol "WW" ever since.
Just one step remained in the nuptialsâ€"an official merger.  That occurred in 2005, with the new entity adopting the name Watson Wyatt Worldwide to signify the joining of its two geographic sectors.  

Research, report, repeat

In addition to its prodigious consulting output, Watson Wyatt consultants have been known to commit an idea or two to paper, in the form of research reports, technical papers, surveys and books.  Also on the research front, the firm maintains a data services unit (Watson Wyatt Data Services).  Operating out of five survey centers around the world, the unit conducts surveys and publishes over 200 annual compensation reportsâ€"a service that gives clients the opportunity to gain insights into workplace conditions on all levels, from local to global.


June 2009: Two become one

In a deal that will establish the world's largest consulting firm dedicated to HR and employee benefits, Watson Wyatt agreed a merger with Towers Perrin.  Billed as a "merger of equals," the deal will create a company with some 14,000 employees, expected to rake in some $3.2 billion in revenue in its first year.  According to industry analysts, the deal is a reflection of the downturn in business associated with the recession; both companies had seen revenue fall off as clients cut spending and brought certain HR functions back in-house.  According to a Watson Wyatt spokesperson, the two firms will continue as separate entities until the deal officially closesâ€"an event scheduled for the end of 2009â€"at which point the new entity will be known as Towers Watson & Co.

June 2009: Dobro pozhalovat v Moskvu (Welcome to Moscow)

Continuing a policy of expanding its footprint in emerging markets, Watson Wyatt opened an office in Moscow.  According to the firm, the move was made in response to increasing demand for its services in the countryâ€"services that will initially focus on the provision of consulting services "to insurance and financial services companies, and human capital and strategic reward consulting."

April 2009: A long road to the top

Martin Pike was named the new global director of Watson Wyatt's insurance and financial services consulting practice.  Having spent more than a quarter of a century at the firm (he joined in 1983), Pike was well placed to take over the role from the retiring Philip Brook, who had served as the European head of the insurance and financial services practice since 2006.  He is tasked with delivering growth to the unit across all geographic regionsâ€"a priority identified by CEO John Haley in an interview in June 2008 (see below for details).


A good (fiscal) year
August 2008

If only everyone's fiscal 2008 could have ended in August; Watson Wyatt reported revenue of $1.76 billion, an increase of more than 18 percent from the previous year.  While it should be noted that the company's fiscal year means those results don't reflect its performance throughout the worst economic ravages of the year, they do represent a slowdown of sorts, compared to recent years; revenue doubled between 2005 and 2007, with a 72 percent jump in 2006 alone.

Haley's comment

June 2008

CEO Haley appeared on Fox Business News to discuss the firm.  In the interview, he identified Mercer, Towers Perrin and Hewitt Associates as his company's biggest competitors, and outlined his plans for the future of the firm.  According to Haley, "The key is focus.  We understand what we're good at, and any business that we're in, we want to be number one or number two in every market segment in the world.  If we're in something that's mission-critical, then we focus on being the best in the world at it."

In response to a question about which areas of the business he would like to see grow more, Haley singled out the insurance and financial services segmentâ€"a division that contributed 7 percent of group revenue in fiscal 2008, but which hasn't established as big of a foothold in the U.S. as it has in Europe.  If the following comment is anything to go by, however, the firm should have made a killing in the second half of 2008: "In some ways, investment consulting advice becomes more valued when the investment markets are down."  No mention of how many seek out that advice when investment markets are in a meltdown, however.

June 2008

The firm acquired Argentina-based Marcu & Asociados, an HR, risk and financial management consulting firm.  Headquartered in Buenos Aires, Marcu added some 37 associates to the Watson Wyatt roll-call, together with some $2.5 million in annual revenue.  Watson Wyatt paid $2.8 million in cash to seal the deal.
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Watson Wyatt Worldwide

901 North Glebe Road
Arlington, DC 22203
Phone: (703) 258-8000
Fax: (703) 258-8585


  • Employer Type: Public
  • Stock Symbol: WW
  • Stock Exchange: NYSE
  • President, Chairman & CEO: John J. Haley
  • 2009 Employees: 7,700

Major Office Locations

  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Irvine, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Santa Clara, CA
  • Denver, CO
  • Stamford, CT
  • Washington, DC
  • Miami, FL
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Honolulu, HI
  • Chicago, IL
  • Bethesda, MD
  • Boston, MA
  • Detroit, MI
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Saint Louis, MO
  • New York, NY
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Columbus, OH
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Portland, OR
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Memphis, TN
  • Dallas, TX
  • Houston, TX
  • Richmond, VA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Reigate, United Kingdom
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Key Financials

  • 2009 Revenue: $1,650 million

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