Daniel Quant, director of investment consulting for Southeast Asia and India at Watson Wyatt in Singapore, has left the firm and returned to his native United Kingdom, leaving a new, somewhat more low-key team in place. This ends a 16-year career in Asia, including long service in Kuala Lumpur and a stint in fund management.
The decision was partly personal and partly a reflection of the high cost of maintaining the Singapore practice, which has plateaued in terms of new business. Naomi Denning, director and regional head of investment consulting in Hong Kong, says the firm sees decreasing budgets for consulting in Singapore, although opportunities remain elsewhere in Southeast Asia, and acknowledges that the past year has been tough on the Southeast Asia business.
Other people familiar with the firm say Quant inherited a sunset business, following the success of former director Andy Budden, who quit to join Capital International in April last year. Budden, and before him former managing director Jon Robinson (now with Vanguard) oversaw a time when Watson Wyatt became the consultant of choice for Singapore's myriad statutory boards and government-linked corporations, a trend that has run its course. Meanwhile rivals such as Mercer Investment Consulting have raised their profile in the region, with Mercer winning work for the Government Pension Corporation in Thailand and the Central Provident Fund in Singapore, for example (although these prestige projects are unlikely to be profitable on their own).
Quant, a senior expatriate, saw the writing on the wall given the high costs he represented to a mature business. With an eye to the future, Quant's major achievement has been to build a team in Singapore and Malaysia who can maintain the firm's current business activity, and he oversaw the integration of the two markets into a single P&L line. Now Tan Jenn-Yee will run Singapore and Malaysia, after a decade of working on the funds management side, while Puah Ser-Sze oversees the day-to-day operations in Kuala Lumpur. Quant, meanwhile, is expected to look for work in the UK.
"We have a good team in place in Singapore," Denning says. "I'm very comfortable with them, and they are plugged into the firm." Her goal is to leverage Watson Wyatt's global resources to put the Southeast Asia practice on a more sustainable financial footing while continuing to serve existing clients and exploit any new opportunities that arise.