Memo sets out plan for 'right sizing' broker

Willis is ranking all its associates according to performance – and telling the lowest scoring that they must improve or leave the business.

An internal memo from chairman Joe Plumeri sent to associates late last year sets out plans for “right sizing” the business in the downturn, and details his belief that its shares are undervalued.

As well as performance management, Plumeri said there would be no salary reviews until July, and that even then there would be “serious questions” over pay rises for anyone earning more than $100,000 (£68,500).

There also would be a moratorium on certain types of business development, he said.

“We need to put some things on hold until we can see that we can afford them – or that we can do them as well as other key priorities. This is true of some corporate hires, technology investments, support hires and certain types of training.”

Earlier this year the company confirmed that it could make redundancies in the UK.

Willis is also scrutinising expenses and corporate hospitality. “We need to spend our money on business muscle and vital support. Everything else has to be questioned. It has to be critical versus non-critical,” said Plumeri.

He added that the financial crisis was “the most difficult time for the global economy that any of us have witnessed in our lifetime”.

However his message was generally upbeat and he defended his recent decision to increase his holding in the company to 3.2 million shares or 2.2% of the total.

A Willis spokesman said: “The note was received very positively by our associates who appreciated the open, honest, comprehensive communication.”