Update: Philly unit of Towers Watson picks Mount Laurel for 400 call center jobs

Towers Watson, a New York-based consulting company for employee benefits and other corporate financial programs, plans its first East Coast call center in Mount Laurel, Burlington County, N.J., to support its planned OneExchange health-insurance market.

The company will hire 400 workers to staff the new center in the glass-walled four-story building at 10000 Midlantic Blvd. over the next two years, Frank Giampietro, who heads Towers' local region including its existing 650-person Center City office and its 50-worker Berwyn bureau, told me.

"It's a huge step for us," Giampietro told me. "We've done healthcare benefits consulting for years. Now our clients are interested in buying solutions" through a private version of the state health exchanges mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). A number of private companies have talked about setting up similar exchanges to rapidly match employers and insurers; Towers Watson wants OneExchange to be among the first.

By standardizing the process of choosing "best-in-class" insurance plans -- "high performance" to "more flexible" -- from multiple insurers, companies can hope to avoid the excise tax the U.S. has imposed on high-end health plans and save on administration costs vs. running their own plans. The prospect is especially attractive for midsize employers with workers scattered among many states, Giampietro said.

The company has call centers focused on corporate health plans and other services in Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and San Diego. Why pick Mount Laurel? "A big factor was the talent pool," Giampietro said. South Jersey has been a center for insurance and mortgage call centers; the region is one of the nation's medical hubs; Towers Watson will recruit from both workforces. Also, the location near the New Jersey Turnpike and I-295 makes it a relatively easy drive for corporate clients and prospects along the East Coast, he added.

Did New Jersey taxpayers subsidize the move? No, says Giampietro: "That was not a factor in the process for us." Towers Watson looked at sites in Philadelphia as well as its Jersey suburbs. "But when we tried to find a space where we could pull people to work, a suburban campus rated higher than an urban location" for both client and prospective worker convenience. .

Towers Watson's Philadelphia office is a successor to the former Towers Perrin employment consulting service based here before the current publicly-traded company was created in a 2010 merger. Some 200 former Towers Watson reinsurance workers in Philadelphia were spun off into a separate company, British-owned JLT Towers, last year.