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Willis adds four board members as Patel, Ganzi set to leave

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Willis Towers Watson has selected Inga Beale, Fumbi Chima, Michael Hammond and Michelle Swanback to join its board of directors.

Beale, Hammond and Swanback will join the board effective January 1, 2022, concurrent with Carl Hess’s transition to CEO.

Chima will join the board effective April 1, following her ending another commitment.

To facilitate the director transition, Jaymin Patel has decided to step down from the board on January 1.

The new directors were selected in connection with the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee’s process, with the support of activist investor Elliott Management.

Patel had previously been considering transitioning off the board at the end of his term to spend more time on other commitments and agreed to accelerate this.

Victor Ganzi has decided not to stand for re-election to the board but will continue to serve as a member and as chair through the end of his current term.

Hess will succeed long-serving CEO John Haley, who confirmed in August he would stand down from his role.

In addition, the board will also establish an operational transformation committee, which will make recommendations to the board and help it oversee the implementation of the company’s operational transformation plan, which aims to achieve around $300mn of run rate cost savings by the end of 2024.

Beale is the former CEO of Lloyd’s of London, a role she held from 2014 to 2018. Previously, Beale was also CEO of Canopius Group.

Chima is currently the executive vice president and chief information officer at Boeing Employees’ Credit Union, a role she has had since 2020.

Hammond is a retired senior executive with experience at several international insurance broking firms. Most recently, he served in a variety of senior roles at Lockton.

Swanback is currently president for product and platform at The Western Union Company, a role she has had since 2020.

Analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods (KBW) said the news of the appointments was positive.

“We believe past [Willis] expense-reduction efforts involved under-investing in talent and technology, which boosted short-term margins at the expense of long-term earnings quality,” KBW said.

“We think informed board oversight minimizes this risk.”

Ganzi said: “We are very pleased to have Ms Beale, Ms Chima, Mr Hammond and Ms Swanback join the board.

“Collectively, they add to the board a deep and broad base of knowledge and a wide diversity of experience and skills. We are confident they will add significant value to the board through their insights into the opportunities and challenges the company is facing as it moves forward with its strategic plan.”

The news is the latest in a series of shake-ups at the brokers following the announcement at the end of July that Willis and Aon had terminated their proposed $30bn mega merger in the face of opposition from the Department of Justice.

Willis Towers Watson also recently announced a new global leadership team and structural rejig aiming to “drive the company forward”.

From January 1, 2022, the global team will cover comprise two segments – health, wealth and career, and risk and broking – split across Europe, International and North America divisions.

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