Monday, August 02, 2004

Towers Perrin moves operations out of Singapore 

The Straits Times today reported that human resources consultants Towers Perrin has moved most of its local operations to Malaysia to save costs. The firm closed its HR operations here at the end of June but said that it would continue to serve its Singapore clients from Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur-based Towers acting country manager Christopher Bennett said that the move was driven by “price-sensitive” customers here, but added that Towers would continue to provide Singapore clients “the same quality service but at a much lower cost by doing most of the work in KL”.

However, The Straits Times noted that among its Singapore-based consultants, only one — a non-Singaporean — was known to have joined the KL office. A few would continue to work for Towers on a project basis.

The Straits Times reported that other HR consulting firms like Mercer and Watson Wyatt had no plans to move.

Rich Nuzum, the managing director of Mercer Human Resource Consulting, was quoted as saying: “We have no plans to shift our regional headquarters from Singapore or otherwise cut back on our activities here.” He added that “the Singapore market is too competitive and sophisticated for clients to believe they will get good value-added from being serviced out of a neighbouring country”.

I tend to agree with Nuzum. Granted that Towers Perrin is a highly reputed consultancy, but I don’t see any compelling reason for anyone in Singapore to want to consult with a KL-based firm when there are so many other competent alternatives locally.

My own take of the Towers Perrin move is that it had probably decided that with the stiff competition and high costs, the Singapore operation was simply not worth maintaining and had simply packed its bag to look for greener pastures. The bigger market in Malaysia, much of it still relatively untapped, offers less competition and more scope for growth.

And with lower costs, more potential for profit as well.


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