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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Derisking the future by Lee Meixian

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Lee Meixian writes, "Aon Hewitt's global CEO of consulting, Yvan Legris, is in the business of predictions - predicting risks, human behaviour, organisational needs and industry shifts in human resource."

'You need to have a mix between short-term incentives for achievements of objectives in one year, versus longer-term performance which tends to be delivered through share awards.' 

YOU can take a man out of Mauritius, but perhaps you can never take Mauritius out of the man.
Aon Hewitt's global CEO of consulting, Yvan Legris, left his birthplace on the African island-nation when he was 19 on a bond-free government scholarship to study economics and actuarial science in London.

Actuarial science was, and still is, his passion, and pensions would later become his specialisation. Mr Legris wanted to be an actuary - someone who evaluates risks and designs ways to control their likelihood of happening and eventual impact - because at that time, there were no actuaries where he came from.

"I wanted to be the first actuary (in Mauritius) and I remember feeling a little bit cheated when someone qualified before me," he says with a chuckle.

His strong interest in pension programmes is plain as he discusses them. Specifically, this has to do with the art and science of financial modelling to project how much money a company needs to put into a pension pot in order to pay its retirees to maintain a certain standard of living for as long as they live.

"There are all sorts of unknowns such as life expectancies, interest rates, asset returns. That is really what fascinated me: how to use financial tools to manage and predict those things.

"You don't know what the exact answer is. You've done an approximation and you track things as they progress and as the pension plans mature, how they are doing versus what needs to be paid out. And then you make recommendations on whether companies should put more money in, or whether they should change how they invest the money."

In most countries, actuarial graduates have to join a professional institute and take exams for the next six years, on average.

Mr Legris doesn't have a practising certificate as an actuary any more because in his client-facing consultancy role today, he is not doing enough technical work to maintain that qualification. But he finds that the discipline has continued to help him in developing strategies and gives him credibility with his teams and clients.

Aon Hewitt designs and executes people programmes - such as for compensation, engagement, retirement and health benefits - for big organisations. The company, along with Mercer and Towers Watson, form the so-called "Big Three" in the human capital consulting world.

And Mr Legris' forte in pensions fits right into human resource (HR) programmes as people are living longer and want to retire better.