Aon staff have ‘embraced’ pay cuts, says CEO Greg Case

Cost cutting

Making global pay cuts was a “collective” decision that staff have “embraced” since a Monday announcement, according to Aon CEO Greg Case.

Pushed on the ramifications of the announcement that 70% of Aon staff would take a 20% pay cut, Case defended the decision as necessary to ensure the risk giant could continue to offer the best possible service to clients during the coronavirus pandemic and its potential continuing impact.

Quizzed by analysts on the workforce’s reaction to the pay reductions Case said in the risk firm’s Q1 results call: “We essentially stepped back and asked our colleagues around the globe, and our leadership team, how do we actually prepare on behalf of clients? And we looked at all the scenarios.”

Aon has committed to retaining all staff while the pandemic crisis persists and to paying its upcoming dividend. It has pushed pause on share buybacks for the time being.

Case continued: “We all realised at the time the difficult choices: how do you protect 50,000 colleagues to serve clients in the most effective way? And you recognise that if you wait and the downturn becomes more acute, how do you actually have them there? How do you support colleagues to do that? And we collectively made a decision that we are going to take the steps we took, because we know, again, in addition to protecting 60,000 [sic] jobs, our ability to continue supporting clients is extraordinary.”

He continued: “Since Monday what’s happened around the world has really been our colleagues have embraced it and understood exactly what we’re trying to do. And as I said before, we’re coming through this a stronger firm.”

Case added: “In the end, our colleagues know we took steps that perhaps it’d be hard for other people to take to support clients, and that if we’re wrong, we basically you know remediate all the actions we take and mitigate our actions, no problem.”

Case made several references to the firm’s Aon United strategy as enabling the risk giant to make decisions across a global workforce.

“We often talk about Aon United and its capability in positive times. But it turns out, Aon United is equally meaningful in times of challenge,” according to Case.

Aon’s approach to staff remuneration has not been echoed by other global brokers.

Fellow broking giant Willis Towers Watson, the acquisition of which Aon is expected to complete in H1 2021, did not follow suit with WTW CEO John Haley saying it has no plans to cut salaries of its 45,000 staff for the time being.

Nor did rival Marsh & McLennan, which has a 70,000-strong workforce.

MMC CEO Dan Glaser labelled pay cuts a “blunt instrument” on Thursday.

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