Executive Summary

Employee benefits consultants help clients implement and manage things like health benefits, retirement plans and compensation packages. William M. Mercer is the No. 1 firm on the list, with 190 employees working on employee benefits.

One firm dropping off this year is KPMG Peat Marwick LLP, which did some staff restructuring and moved many employee benefits positions out of L.A. County. Meanwhile, Deloitte & Touche LLP has increased its presence in this area, with a benefits staff of 102, up from 83 last year.

According to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 64 percent of employees listed health insurance as the most important benefit to them, followed by retirement plans at 18 percent and child care at 5 percent. However, retirement plans are probably the most common benefit that consulting firms are called in to administer. Today, an estimated 27 million employees contribute to 401(k) retirement savings accounts that collectively hold over $1 trillion in assets. These numbers are expected to grow rapidly because 401(k) plans are becoming a benefit that employers must offer to be competitive in employment.

The Pacesetter

William M. Mercer Inc. is once again the largest employee benefits consulting firm in L.A. County. Mercer has added 10 employees in the past year, giving it a workforce of 190 involved in benefits work and a total of 210 in Los Angeles. Roy Gonella heads up Mercer's downtown office.

Mercer advises clients on providing traditional benefits like retirement plans, health benefits and benefit administration and communications. In addition, Mercer handles other human resources issues such as executive compensation, employee pay and performance and sales effectiveness.

Mercer is the 9,000-employee consulting division of New York-based Marsh & McLennan Cos., a professional services holding company consisting primarily of the largest business insurance brokerage in the world. The company has increased its revenues from $4.1 billion in 1996 to more than $6 billion in 1997 through an aggressive expansion and acquisition drive. Most recently, Marsh & McLennan Cos. announced its intention to buy London-based Sedgwick Group PLC, the largest European-based insurance brokerage, for $2 billion. In the last two years, the holding company also acquired leading insurance and consulting firms in Sweden, Mexico and France.

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