Thursday 18 January 2018

Willis Towers Watson eyes 'opportunity' and plans to boost Irish staff

Multinational professional services firm Willis Towers Watson sees
Multinational professional services firm Willis Towers Watson sees "great opportunity" for the company to grow its Irish presence on foot of Brexit. Stock photo
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Multinational professional services firm Willis Towers Watson sees "great opportunity" for the company to grow its Irish presence on foot of Brexit.

Chairman Jim McCann told the Sunday Independent that the newborn company - created from a merger of Willis and Towers Watson - was integrating "quite well". It employs more than 500 people here and recently announced plans to add another 40.

"We find - and the world has found - that the Irish workforce is particularly nimble," McCann said. "They have a high tolerance for ambiguity, and that I think is one of the most critical ingredients you need in a workforce today. People who understand that things do change all the time and say: 'I need to keep my skills fresh and roll with the punches.'

"It's an interesting time for us. Brexit is going to have a large impact on Ireland and on the business community in Northern Europe that is such an important trading partner for Ireland.

"At a time like that, clearly employers need good advice and counsel in terms of what that does to their pension schemes, what that does to their employment practices as these changes ripple through the system. That creates opportunity for Willis Towers Watson to provide that trusted guided consultation to our clients in Ireland, in the UK. That confusion creates opportunity for us to really know what we're doing, provide that good advice, and lead our clients through that maze of change that's coming."

Irish-American McCann also said he was in discussions about bringing food brands from his Nasdaq-listed 1-800-Flowers business to Ireland. He founded the gifts and floral company in 1976 and is now executive chairman.

"We're at the point of view where it sounds like it probably is the time [to ramp up the Irish presence]. It's in its formative discussion stages now but we've long had many customers in Ireland, our primary business is in North America but we do in fact have business interest around the UK and Northern Europe. I hope to firm up plans this spring, we're in conversations with our partner there, Lulu O'Sullivan, she has a company called Gifts Direct and she's been our fulfilment partner in Ireland for a number of years now.

"The order volume is increasing, she's a terrific partner and we're talking to her about launching our other brands there."

He said one of the brands the company is considering introducing is Harry & David - known for its Royal Riviera pears. It is also considering bringing some Irish brands into its US gift range.

Sunday Indo Business

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