Philadelphia's interest in Towers Perrin's merger with Watson Wyatt

Put two big pharmaceutical companies together and people notice, but two large benefits consulting firms …?

Well, I only noticed this billion-dollar deal because one of the consulting firms is Towers, Perrin, Forster & Crosby Inc., which was founded in Philadelphia in 1934.

Now based in Stamford, Conn., Towers Perrin is one of those “quiet giants” in Philadelphia business circles. It’s been a major tenant in the Centre Square office building at 1500 Market St. since 1975. And that office remains its biggest, employing 1,016 people, or 16 percent of its total workforce.

Towers Perrin is quiet, for one thing, because it’s a private company. But while Philadelphians frequent the convenience stores of the privately held Wawa and the concession stands at arenas run by privately owned Aramark, they are largely unaware of how Towers Perrin may intersect their lives.

Towers Perrin’s game is providing management consulting services, which means it employs lots of actuaries, risk managers, and employee benefits and insurance professionals.

On Sunday, Towers Perrin agreed to merge with the publicly held Watson Wyatt Worldwide Inc. in a transaction valued at about $3.5 billion. The resulting organization will be called Towers Watson & Co. and have annual revenues of more than $3 billion.

Watson Wyatt, of Arlington, Va., is the bigger firm with 7,700 employees worldwide, including offices in Berwyn and Philadelphia.

Where’s the exit?

James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, will speak in Philadelphia Tuesday about the central bank’s “exit strategies” from the emergency lending programs that have helped rescue the U.S. economy.

It should be a timely lecture, coming soon after Bullard’s counterpart at the Dallas Fed told Bloomberg News on Friday that such strategies are “not ready to be articulated” until the “appropriate time.”

Let’s hope today’s more appropriate.