Q&A: Michael Whitfield explains the Thomsons/Mercer deal

Thomsons Online Benefits CEO Michael Whitfield tells Corporate Adviser why he agreed to sell to Mercer, and how the deal will impact both organisations and their pre-existing relationships.

Michael WhitfieldMercer’s acquisition of Thomsons Online Benefits last month was one of the big deals in the corporate benefits space in 2016. Thomsons was set up 17 years ago by Michael Whitfield and managing director Chris Bruce. The price paid by Mercer has not been disclosed but the company was valued in 2013 at around £100m by a private equity investor.

CA. What does the purchase of Thomsons Online Benefits by Mercer mean for its senior management structure?

MW. (Co-founder) Chris Bruce and I are going nowhere. Thompson’s will be staying independent as a standalone brand, with its own culture.

CA. And what does it mean for staff within Thomsons?

MW. There will be no job losses whatsoever.

CA. What is your mandate from the Mercer management team?

MW. I have been given absolute discretion by chief executive officer Julio Portalatin to transform the organisation’s technology business. There is a recognition that they now have a technology business at their core and not at the periphery. We have been partnering with them for the last couple of years. Julio is talking about Thomsons as being the technological heartbeat of the company. This will be impacting operations locally and globally.

CA. And what does this mean for Mercer’s existing technology relationships?

MW. Mercer has relationships with other technology partners around the world. We too have other partners. The plan is to ring fence these and be an agnostic solution. We respect the confidentiality of our clients and their partners. It is crucial to me that we do this.

CA. What does the deal mean for Harmonise and the technology providers that it already uses such as Staffcare, its existing benefits administration software provider?

MW. It is far too early to look at Harmonise. It has got a local vendor there with Staffcare. Mercer will have to decide what that means – I cannot say what they will do with Harmonise.