Aon Earnings Call Nuggets: Consulting Segment and HR Solutions Guidance

Aon (NYSE:AON) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Consulting Segment

Adam Klauber – William Blair: In the consulting segment, it sounded like Europe was somewhat weak. What was the growth in the — just the U.S.?

Gregory C. Case – President and CEO: We don’t talk, overall, Adam, at some of our specific region, but as we would have described is, net-net, expectations for the year continue to be exactly where they were as we left off last year, kind of low mid-single digits across the board for the year. U.S. was stronger than Europe for obvious reasons when you think about discretionary spend and how clients are reacting under the current situations they’re in. But the underlying programs we’ve put in place to build client retention and obtain new clients, strong in the U.S., strong in Europe, and obviously, the headwinds are a bit stronger in Europe than the U.S.

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Adam Klauber – William Blair: Then as far as the healthcare exchange you mentioned that the pipeline for new potential clients is looking good. After you sign up to several large clients at the end of the year, did that really raise perception I guess number one; and number two, as we think about the year end 2013 enrollment season, any – I know you can’t set a number on it, but is it possible to sign up materially more clients than you did at the end of 2012?

Gregory C. Case – President and CEO: If you step back and think about the exchanges overall, remember, we’ve got a retiree exchange navigator that’s actually been in place and is working very, very well with the pipeline that’s growing. You were referring to the corporate exchange and you are exactly right, we were the first to put a multicarrier exchange in place and actually bring it live and we’ve brought it live with clients in the last renewal period and as you just described. Having done that successfully all those clients are referenceable, very positive reaction as you might expect with a proven concept that has tremendous benefits for companies and even for employees over time you are going to have a lot more demand in the context than we saw last year exactly what we expected. Let’s say from our standpoint we wanted to continue to grow and build out the exchanges on the corporate side. Team’s done a terrific job in doing that. We’ve got a very robust pipeline going into this renewal season and we expect to continue to see that grow and see the return from that investment. So, from our standpoint, it’s going exactly as we’d expected with probably even a little more robust demand than we thought and certainly as you look at the competitive environment you are seeing a lot of other folks think about this space as well…

Adam Klauber – William Blair: And one final question, on HR Solutions margin, clearly first quarter is a slower seasonal quarter and you had some expenses. Without putting a number on that do you think the margin goes up from 1Q from here?

Christa Davies – EVP and CFO: Yes, we do. What we would say is, it’s going to improve sequentially each quarter during the year. And as we gave guidance we still think we’re exactly on track to mid-single-digit operating improvements for 2013, down in the first half and up in the second half. And due to seasonality you described, you’re exactly right, the Q4 will be seasonally higher than it has been historically, primarily due to healthcare exchanges.

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HR Solutions Guidance

Brian Meredith – UBS: A couple of quick questions here for you. First, Christa, on the guidance in the HR Solutions business for income for the year, does that include the $10 million of litigation, or should we strip that out when we’re thinking about the growth for the year?

Christa Davies – EVP and CFO: No, it’s exactly in line with what we said at the end of Q4, Brian, so we do think we’re going to get the $10 million back.

Brian Meredith – UBS: So you’ll get the $10 million back also. Okay, it’s great. Second question, Greg, more for you, on this Berkshire deal that you all did. I guess the question I have there is, what is the Lloyd’s market kind of reaction then from your perspective? And is there any risk, kind of from a revenue perspective, perhaps, in Reinsurance or something, where some of the Lloyd’s syndicates may not be too happy about it?

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Gregory C. Case – President and CEO: Yes, Brian, as we’ve looked at this, this really is a client solution, first and foremost. It’s a client solution, as we’ve described it that brings AA plus rated capacity in the market, the way it’s never been brought in the market before. I would also say, as I know you know (indiscernible) is just concluding now on the West Coast, and the client reaction from the announcement has actually been quite positive. If you think about it if you a client in an area of constrained capital, this is now another area of capacity that just wasn’t there before. As we’ve described, so it’s truly a focus on kind of client need and client benefit. As we’ve also talked with Lloyd’s about is currently is linked to Lloyd’s, so really, we think it will actually provide some positive momentum into the Lloyd’s marketplace overall, and we’re going to continue to discuss it with them. Lloyd’s is, obviously, a very important partner, and we’re going to continue to work with our partners to serve our clients. But at its cold phase, this is truly a client focused effort and it’s beginning to play out exactly like that.

A Closer Look: Aon Earnings Cheat Sheet>>