Compensation provider Birches Group extends its reach in the region – an interview with Warren Heaps

My friend Warren Heaps is a Partner at Birches Group, an independent consulting firm specialised in providing compensation information in over 180 emerging and developing countries.

Birches Group very recently announced that they have entered into an agreement with Aon Hewitt, one of the major global compensation consultancies. Under the partnership, Aon Hewitt will make Birches Group surveys in developing country markets available to their clients, expanding their survey coverage to over 170 countries globally.

You can find the Press Release here.

Warren answered a few of my questions about what the partnership will mean for companies based in the Middle East and GCC.


Warren, thanks for addressing the readers of CompensationInsider. First, can you please explain to us the kind of services Birches Group provides, and in which countries of the Middle East ? 

Birches Group is a global salary survey provider.  We specialize in surveys in developing country markets (148 countries in all).  We have data for all of Africa and the Middle East, in addition to the rest of the developing markets in Latin America, Europe (East and Central), Asia and the South Pacific.

In the Middle East we have surveys in all countries with the exception of Dubai (our UAE survey is just for Abu Dhabi).  But keep in mind, we also cover Northern Africa, elsewhere in Central Asia such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, as well as Iran. 

We also offer consulting services in the areas of job evaluation, competencies and performance management.  Our approach is a good alternative to the complex and heavy approaches that other consultants offer.

Why did you choose this activity ?

Birches Group began as a private company back in 2005.  But for 20+ years before, the founding partners were responsible for compensation for the United Nations Development Programme across 133 countries.  This experience was the foundation for our approach and methodology, as well as the idea of creating a company to serve the needs of employers throughout the developing world.

What does Birches Group offer which is unique ?

There are several things which make our surveys unique:

  1. We use a single, standardized methodology for all our surveys. 
  2. Our methodology is build to capture the unique requirements of developing country markets.  It works well with smaller sample sizes, and captures all of the extra allowances and in-kind benefits that are common in the region. There is much more, but that gives you a good idea. The other thing that makes us different is our coverage – all the countries in the developing world.

Tell us about some of your successes in the region.

We have had some good success in all parts of the world!  We did a large project in the Middle East a few years ago for an organization which has operations in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Territories.  It was a major challenge, since we interviewed staff members in all those locations.  We developed a new job grading system, and a new approach for compensation, which included competency-based broad bands for professionals, as well as performance-based pay for senior executives.

We hope to do a lot more work in the Middle East, as we know there are many organizations that could benefit from our expertise, especially those which are themselves expanding into nearby countries in North Africa and elsewhere.

What were the reasons that made you enter in the relationship with Aon Hewitt specifically ?

We are so excited about the new collaboration with Aon Hewitt.  It’s  a marketing partnership – we will continue to be a separate company from Aon Hewitt – they did not purchase us or buy an equity stake.

There are several reasons why we think it will be a huge success.  As you know, Aon Hewitt is one of the largest human resources consultancies in the world.  They have targeted the developing world, especially Middle East and Africa, as one of their priority regions for expansion, much like they have had success in India and China over the last several years.

We first got to know them while working on a project for a mutual client, who asked us to work together on our respective pieces.  Through conversations it became clear that we would be a perfect complementary fit for them.  Aon Hewitt is strong in the more developed countries such as Europe, US and Australia, as well as many of the larger developing markets such as China, India, Brazil, etc.  They were looking for a way to expand their market coverage dramatically.

With the Aon Hewitt TCM survey now in about 45 countries, and with Birches Group surveys  in 148, we can together cover 181 countries (there is some overlap).  No other consultant can match that coverage!

Another reason for working with Aon Hewitt is their approach to branding.  They already have three distinct brands in the market – Aon Hewitt (multi-sector surveys), McLagan (financial services) and Radford (Tech and Life Sciences).  Birches Group is a natural fit into this portfolio of offerings for their clients as the developing markets option.  Other major consultants always seem to combine their offerings into a single one.  Aon Hewitt has decided specifically NOT to do that – which allows us to maintain a strong brand identity.

What, if anything, will change with the partnership ? What are the benefits for organisations in the region ?

The most obvious benefit for the region is the ability to combine our efforts to expand the surveys to the most important employers in the Gulf region and elsewhere in the Middle East.  We are hopeful that we will be able to expand participation and provide clients with a better product going forward.

The partnership also will allow us to work cooperatively to serve clients in new ways.  Already we are formulating plans, for example, to work with groups of Aon Hewitt clients in specific sectors, who require data in countries they do not cover with their own surveys.  Our long-standing expertise with international public sector organizations will be helpful for some of the projects they are working on for clients.  And, we hope to offer joint conferences and research as well.

When is your next upcoming survey in the Middle East going to take place, and where can our readers find out more about the surveys for 2012 ?

Our survey schedule spans the entire year, but we have the ability to accommodate clients at any time.   Here is the schedule (subject to change, of course):

Lebanon – UAE : February

Kazakhstan – Kyrgyzstan – Uzbekistan – Mauritania – Sudan : March

Saudi Arabia – Syria – Tajikistan : May

Egypt – Tunisia –Turkmenistan : June

Morocco : July

Azerbaijan – Bahrain – Yemen : August

Afghanistan – Pakistan – Algeria : September

Oman – Kuwait : November

Iraq – Qatar : December


I would like to thank Warren for taking the time to answer these questions. If anyone wants to know more about the surveys or check the schedule, they can reach Warren or visit the company website at You are also invited to join Birches Group on LinkedIn (Developing Markets Compensation and Benefits), and check out the blog where Warren contributes his thoughts on a regular basis at – it is also on my blogroll as one of the blogs I recommend in C&B.


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