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Aon Plc (AON) Q2 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Motley Fool - Fri Jul 28, 2023
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Aon Plc(NYSE: AON)
Q2 2023 Earnings Call
Jul 28, 2023, 8:30 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Operator

Good morning and thank you for holding. Welcome to Aon plc's second-quarter 2023 conference call. At this time, all parties will be in a listen-only mode until the question-and-answer portion of today's call. I would also like to remind all parties that this call is being recorded.

If anyone has any objection, you may disconnect your line at this time. It is important to note that some of the comments in today's call may constitute certain statements that are forward-looking in nature as defined by the Private Securities Reform Act of 1995. Such statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from historical results or those anticipated. Information concerning risk factors that could cause such differences are described in the press release covering our second-quarter 2023 results as well as having been posted on our website.

Now it is my pleasure to turn the call over to Greg Case, CEO of Aon plc.

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Rob, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to our second-quarter conference call. I'm joined by Christa Davies, our CFO; and Eric Andersen, our president. As in previous quarters, for your reference, we posted a detailed financial presentation on our website.

We're pleased to report that our global team delivered another strong quarter performance, results, and momentum. And we begin the call today by thanking our colleagues for everything they do to help our clients address immediate and long-term demands around the risk and people. And united, delivered by our colleagues gives us the ability to meet this demand and balance across our portfolio, capitalizing on innovation and momentum and investing to meet demand. This ensures we win more, retain more, and do more with our clients. There's now almost universal agreement, the client demand to address risk in human capital has never been greater. For example, our catastrophe incident report estimated global economic losses from natural disasters in the first half of 2023 for 194 billion, notably above the 21st-century average of 128 billion and fifth highest on record. Even more profound, in addition to economic costs, we know these disasters have tragic human costs that reinforces the high value and building resiliency and protection in advance of disaster.

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To this end, we recently announced the placement of a parametric insurance program for the government of Puerto Rico. It's the single largest program of its kind that the U.S. Commonwealth has ever placed. This program was designed by our reinsurance and commercial risk teams. And in the event of a sizable earthquake or hurricane, Puerto Rico will quickly receive liquidity, enabling its government to focus on rapid recovery and reconstruction. This placement was a result of announced data analytics and capabilities from across our firm, cemented by our deep understanding of public entity demand, risk capital, and reinsurance markets, and really really great work by our team.

Turning to financial performance. In the second quarter, we delivered strong organic revenue growth across our solution lines, including 10% growth in health solutions and 9% growth in reinsurance solutions, contributing to 6% overall organic growth in the quarter and 7% in the first half. In health solutions [Inaudible] revenue growth of 10% on top of 11% last year was driven by strength in the core. Our team has done terrific work helping clients navigate the demands of their talent agendas, balancing optimal benefits for their people with inflationary cost pressures, while also taking steps to deliver on their people strategies at a time when bringing total rewards, health, and wealth benefits together as human capital are more important than ever.

In reinsurance solutions, our team delivered another very strong quarter with 9% organic growth on top of 9% last year, driven by strong net new business generation. Our teams continue to help clients navigate a challenging and complex market and are already preparing data and analytics and insight as we help our clients understand and address ongoing volatility and capital considerations. We're also seeing capital come into the market, particularly in cat bonds, as our team has placed over 5 billion across 21 deals year to date. In wealth solutions, we deliver 2% organic growth driven by ongoing trends in demand we've seen in project work around market volatility and regulatory changes, as well as the ongoing trend of pension de-risking, which we expect to continue in the quarters coming ahead given the market conditions. We continue to see opportunity to help clients react and prepare for regulatory changes and market volatility with our data, analytics, and expertise.

And finally, commercial risk solutions delivered 5% organic growth in the quarter. Globally, we saw strong growth across most major geographies with double-digit growth in Asia and the Pacific. In the U.S., we saw strength in core retail brokerage including from property, casualty, and construction. As we've communicated previously, results were pressured by the impact of external M&A and IPO markets on M&A services, a headwind we now expect to continue in the back half of the year given ongoing external conditions. Overall, in the quarter, our strong performance was driven by the strength of our Aon United strategy and Aon Business Services platform. In Q2, we translated 6% organic revenue growth into 110 basis points of operating margin expansion, net of ongoing investment in the business for long-term growth.

These results contributed to firs-half financial performance of 7% organic revenue growth and 90 basis points of adjusted operating margin expansion. And we remain very well-positioned to maintain this momentum and to deliver on our ongoing financial guidance of mid-single digit or greater organic revenue growth, margin expansion, and double-digit free cash flow growth for 2023 and the long term. This financial performance is ultimately the product of our ability to address client needs through Aon United. And this strength is foundational in supporting our ability to evolve in response to changing client demand, fully demonstrated by our move to risk capital and human capital. This focus is bringing our four solution lines more closely together to better address client need and is already yielding meaningful client impact.

Take human capital. Our clients are changing how they're thinking about their colleagues. They're facing an increasingly complex external environment with pressures around costs, growth, remote and hybrid work, and workforce composition. In their own internal environment, their people strategies are increasingly complex, considering traditional total rewards and health benefits and newer additions around future skills and well-being.

Our connectivity across health, wealth, and talent enables us to bring data, analytics, and solutions to address this need. In one great example, our team developed a diagnostic tool for clients that produces a human sustainability index, or HSI. This tool combines individual and team assessments with peer data and analytics based benchmarking to enable our clients to directly connect people strategy goals to execution. The measurable results encompassing eight wellness pathways such as physical, emotional, and financial aspects supports individuals and teams to assess exactly what's working and for whom, along key metrics so our clients can adjust or change their tactics to drive their people strategy and ultimately their bottom line. In many respects, this work represents bringing next-level data science into talent development and leadership. Ultimately, the HSI solution identifies gaps in what our clients offer to their people, encompassing health, wealth, rewards, and other wellness programs, and it provides a trackable plan to strengthen the company's talent strategy on their most significant, often external commitments, at a time when these commitments are more important than ever. In summary, our strong performance is a direct result of our ability to help clients better understand their challenges and opportunities and to take actions to protect their business and improve their performance.

Further, our recently announced enhanced focus on risk capital and human capital is already driving benefits and strengthening this capability. Our strong year-to-date financial results, including 7% organic revenue growth and 90 basis points of margin expansion, are the direct outcome of the strategy and position us very well to continue delivering in 2023 and over the long term. Now, I'd like to turn the call over to Christa for her thoughts on our financial results and long-term outlook for continued shareholder value creation. Christa?

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks so much, Greg, and good morning, everyone. As Greg highlighted, we continued delivering on our key financial metrics both in the quarter and year to date. Through the first half, we translated 7% organic revenue growth into 90 basis points of adjusted operating margin expansion. These results positioned us very well to continue to drive results in 2023 and over the long term, and we look forward to building on this momentum. As I reflect on our performance for the first half of the year, as Greg noted, organic revenue growth was 6% in Q2 and 7% year to date.

We continue to expect mid-single digit or greater organic revenue growth for the full-year 2023 and over the long term. I would also note that reported revenue growth of 7% in Q2 and 6% year to date -- sorry, 6% in Q2 -- 7% in Q2 and 6% year to date includes an unfavorable impact from changes in -- in FX of 1% for Q2 and 2% year to date, primarily driven by a strong dollar versus most currencies. I'd also highlight fiduciary investment income, which is not included in organic revenue growth, with 64 million in Q2 and 116 million year to date, or 2% of total revenue in both periods. Moving to operating performance. We delivered strong operational improvement with adjusted operating margins of 33.6% in the first half, an increase of 90 basis points driven by revenue growth and efficiencies from Aon Business Services, overcoming expense growth including investments in colleagues and technology to drive long-term growth.

Looking forward, we expect to deliver sustainable margin expansion in 2023 and over the long term as we continue our track record of cost discipline and managing investments in long-term growth on an ROIC basis. As we've said previously, Aon Business Services remains one of our key drivers of margin improvement, and this operating model has now reached an inflection point. In response to client demand and the opportunity, we're evolving to an organization that drives efficiency, operating leverage, and margin expansion to one that's also increasingly driving improved client service delivery and accelerating innovation at scale. This evolution of Aon Business Services requires investment in three areas, which we expect to manage in line with our ongoing financial guidance and, like we do for all investments in long-term growth, on a disciplined ROIC basis. First, standardized platforms. We're digitizing and connecting existing platforms and creating an ecosystem that encompasses technology and operations and brings out data, analytics, and expertise together for our clients and our colleagues. Second, standardized operations.

Across our solution lines, there are places where we have common processes. We see opportunity to continue to bring operations and expertise together across our firm to support clients across all solution lines. Bringing people and process together drives further efficiency and enables us to scale best practices. Third, new products at scale. We see significant opportunity to deliver new data-driven products, which we can then effectively develop and scale.

The work we've done to standardize platforms and operations enables us to rapidly develop, deliver, and scale innovative solutions across the portfolio in response to client demand and to deliver content and capability to all clients, be it from organic or inorganic investments. Even more importantly, operating Aon Business Services as one organization with disciplined prioritization and governance around initiatives ensures we can move quickly on opportunities that create value for our clients and colleagues, such as the one we see on AI. Just as a few examples, we see real opportunity here to enhance colleague productivity by leveraging the services of our technology partners in a protected environment to enhance existing offerings like our human capital assistance by building an AI risk framework for our clients, and finally to create complementary data sets to enhance our risk analytics like the catastrophe modeling. We translated strong adjusted operating income growth into adjusted EPS growth of 5% in Q2 and 6% year to date. As noted in our earnings materials, FX translation was an unfavorable impact of approximately $0.05 in the quarter and $0.19 per share year to date. If currency is to remain stable at today's rates, we would expect no impact in the third quarter and a favorable impact of $0.05 per share in the fourth quarter for an unfavorable impact of $0.14 per share for full-year 2023.

'd also note other non-operating expense had a $0.25 per share, or 10%, unfavorable impact in Q2, and a $0.44 per share, or 6%, unfavorable impact year to date. This reflects an unfavorable impact from increase in noncash net periodic pension expense, as well as a gain on sale of businesses in the prior period and balance sheet FX remeasurement in the current period. Heading to free cash flow and capital allocation. Cash from operations was flat year over year, and free cash flow decreased 7% to $986 million, primarily driven by a $77 million increase in capex. As we've communicated before, free cash flow can be lumpy quarter to quarter, and free cash flow generation in the second half of the year is seasonally stronger than the first half. We continue to expect to deliver double-digit free cash flow growth for the full year.

Capex was elevated in the first half of the year compared to the prior year period as we initiated a number of projects with spend heavily weighted in the first half across technology to drive long-term growth like the investments we're making to evolve Aon Business Services. I'd note, capex can be lumpy quarter to quarter. We expect capex to moderate in the back half of the year and now expect an investment of 220 million to 250 million in capex in 2023. As we've said before, we manage capex, like all of our investments, on a disciplined ROIC basis. Our outlook for free cash flow growth in 2023 and beyond remain strong, and we continue to expect to deliver double-digit free cash flow growth for the full year and over the long term, driven by operating income growth and working capital improvements. Given our strong outlook for free cash flow growth in 2023 and beyond, we expect share repurchase to continue to remain our highest return on capital opportunity for capital allocation.

We believe we're significantly undervalued in the market today, highlighted by approximately 1.1 billion of share repurchase year to date. We also expect to continue to invest organically and inorganically in content and capability that we can scale to address unmet client need. Our M&A pipeline continues to be focused on our highest-priority areas that will bring scalable solutions to our clients' growing and evolving challenges. We will continue to actively manage the portfolio and assess all capital allocation decisions on an ROIC basis. Now, turning to our balance sheet and debt capacity. We remain confident in the strength of our balance sheet and manage liquidity risk through a well-laddered debt maturity profile.

As we've said before, we expect to add incremental debt as EBITDA grows over the long term while maintaining a strong investment-grade credit profile. I'd note, our term debt is all fixed rate with an average weighted interest rate of approximately 4% and an average weighted maturity of approximately 11 years. In summary, our strong financial results in the quarter and year to date reflects strong operational performance driven by our Aon United strategy and our Aon Business Services platform. We expect to continue to make progress on our key financial metrics and our commitment to drive long-term shareholder value creation. With that, I'll turn the call back over to the operator, and we'd be delighted to take your questions.

Questions & Answers:


Operator

Thank you. At this time, we'll now be conducting a question-and-answer session. [Operator instructions] Thank you. Thank you.

And our first question comes from the line of Charlie Lederer with Citi. Please proceed with your questions.

Charlie Lederer -- Citi -- Analyst

Hey, thanks, good morning. You mentioned continued headwinds in M&A services in the back half of this year in your prepared remarks. When should we think about that dynamic lapping? And is it more of a pricing issue, or can you comment on what's driving that?

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

Really appreciate the question, Charlie. I'll just start, overall, just commercial fundamentals generally, obviously, that's part of the real question, very strong; retention, very strong; new business, exceptional with a lot of strength around geographies, around -- and in core P&C. It really is this one area and M&A services which is a particular strength of ours. But as you know, deals, yield count, and volumes down, you know, 30% to 40%.

You know, we expect that first half of the year, we expect to see it in the second half of the year. As that comes back, we will come back with an absolute vengeance just given our overall position. But, Eric, anything else you could add to that?

Eric Andersen -- President

Yeah, Greg, I would just say that while the deal volume is down, as you're saying, we have been spending time with the team expanding the potential client base. The historic nature of the product has been driven more toward private equity-type buyers. But we've been spending time working with the corporate clients, making sure they're aware of the capabilities and how those products and services get used, so that when -- when the market does come back, and it will come back, we'll be situated to, you know, lead that market as we do today.

Charlie Lederer -- Citi -- Analyst

Great.

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

And, Charlie, I would just say that while we've lapped, you know, the downturn, we do expect the pressure to continue in the second half as the external outlook has continued to be soft.

Charlie Lederer -- Citi -- Analyst

Got it, thanks. And then, I'm wondering if you can comment on the momentum in your IP business, intellectual property. How meaningful is that to organic revenue growth? And there have been some articles in the press about it recently. So, just trying to understand how you see that business affecting second-half results, if at all.

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

I love this question, Charlie, really appreciate you raising it. We love this business. It is a phenomenal and a phenomenal opportunity for us. To think about intellectual property overall, this is just hugely significant.

This represents -- as we've talked before, 85% of the value of the S&P 500 is really tied back to intangible assets. And if you go back to 2016, we started with an amazing investment writing 601West at Aon. It's 20, 25 colleagues. You know, we've now invested in hundreds of colleagues with a truly unique market-leading platform to really help understand this opportunity and these risks and these -- the value of these assets. And we built a marketplace, you know, with so many insurers, 26, 27, almost 30 insurers in the marketplace, 2 billion in aggregate insured transaction value.

And by the way, demand is stronger than ever, and we're evolving the market. And there are always so many different third parties out in the marketplace and different things that affect that, but you know, we love the -- we love the position. We love the progress we made, and we have, you know -- feel stronger than ever about the future opportunity. Eric, anything else you can add?

Eric Andersen -- President

Yeah, maybe -- maybe two things, Greg. One, as a percent of revenue, it's still a -- the market is still in its infancy. So, I wouldn't overly rotate on it other than the potential that we see down the road. And to your other question about some of the activity in the market, obviously, we're not going to comment on specific third parties. But I would say, you know, as part of our fundamental role of matching risk to capital, we work with many parties that bring capital to the marketplace.

Some of them use letters of credit to backstop the capital but, you know, used by the third parties. But it does provide the kind of capital that we need, that the clients need to deploy, you know, to gain reinsurance capital that they're looking for. So, it's just one of the ways that we match risk and capital together, you know, on behalf of our clients.

Charlie Lederer -- Citi -- Analyst

Thanks, guys.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from the line of Mike Zaremski with BMO Capital Markets. Please proceed with your questions.

Mike Zaremski -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hey, thanks. Good morning. I guess back to, you know, the organic growth environment, just curious, you know, you mentioned some headwinds on the M&A side. There's probably some tailwinds, too, which we can see.

What do you say -- you know, you were clear too, you know, about 5% or greater is still the outlook, but would you say growth is kind of, you know -- thinking back to the back half of the year is kind of steady or accelerating or decelerating? Or any trends you'd like to point out in -- in any of your businesses in terms of momentum or tailwinds other than the M&A call-out that we should be considering into the back half of the year?

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, literally, I love this question. If you step back and think about sort of the growth platform in health evolved, first, just for context, you know, we put -- we think about growth and really all the benchmark objectives over the course of the year. So, if you think about it, for us, growth is organic. Revenue growth is -- by the way, margin improvement and growth is absolutely a translation into free cash flow. And we would say, if you think about just performance in Q2 and really the first half, it's really reinforced our confidence.

And you see momentum around. you know, our full-year 2023 objectives. So, this is mid-single digit or greater across the board. Look at the strengths in health, which were exceptional for the first half and certainly for the quarter, in reinsurance and other areas too, even in commercial risks with the headwind that we just -- we just highlighted.

So, very strong on the solutions line side. And then, you also saw exceptional movement on margin expansion. We think about the growth year to 110 basis points for the Q and 90 basis points for the first half. And most important, you heard Christa reemphasize double-digit free cash flow growth for the year.

So, for us, we see this trend, you know, continue in terms of where we are, and there's a lot that goes behind that. Maybe, Eric, additional context around that foundation and what's driving that.

Eric Andersen -- President

Sure, Greg, and you mentioned two of them in your written remarks around the parametric that we did for Puerto Rico as well as the Human Sustainability Index. Those are just two examples of the Aon United teams working together. But I think I would also say that the client demand is evolving, and it's getting more complicated, I think, as the world gets more complicated. And so, our strategy of evolving to risk capital and human capital, I think, uniquely positions us to take advantage of that capital to drive growth -- I'm sorry, take advantage of that situation to drive growth. And when I think about it, just to put a little clarity on it, you know, from a risk capital standpoint, I think it gives us a couple of things. It gives us access to global capital, no matter what form.

So, insurance reinsurance, ILS, parametrics to help clients transfer the risk that they want to transfer and also create more dynamic markets. And I think it also helps us to create and deliver the analytics that have historically driven our reinsurance business over to the large corporate clients who have a more acute need today to understand their risk and property exposure to climate change, as well as to cyber liability exposures. And it also gives our leaders -- client leaders and brokers the best insight of the market dynamics. So, that's on the risk capital side. On the human capital side, you know, bringing health, wealth, and talent together is effectively meeting clients where they are today.

Clients are looking for a holistic view for their employee relationships, both from hiring, training, health, wellness all the way through to retirement. And we're seeing that. We're really excited to see that strong growth in our core health and benefits business globally. Winning new clients, expanding the relationships with them across all aspects of that employee life cycle is gratifying and exciting. So, we see a lot of opportunity with both risk capital and human capital, both in our strong core but also as we develop sort of new capabilities.

But, Christa, anything you could add to that?

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

Well, I mean Mike, you also did just ask about second-half outlook, and we would say year-to-date growth is 7%. We do think about, you know, our results over the course of a full year, and we are on track for our full-year guidance, mid-single digit or greater organic revenue growth, margin expansion, and double-digit free cash flow -- free cash flow growth. And so, we're really excited about the momentum in the first half and that continuing into the second half. And I think just each quarter, we have different seasonality of revenue, but we really do think about over the course of a full year. And so mid-single digit or greater organic revenue growth for the full year.

Mike Zaremski -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

That's great. My quick follow-up is -- is curious on the expense efficiency side. A number of competitors have kind of talked about leaning in to be able to kind of find more --more ways to be efficient over the last, you know -- I guess, in this post-pandemic world. And there's different nuances to each company's strategy, but it feels like some of them are taking off of the Aon United playbook, which you guys were a first mover on.

Just curious, you know, is there anything you want to call out in terms of do you see incrementally more opportunities today for expense efficiencies? Or nothing really to call out that's getting you guys even -- even more excited about kind of, you know, some margin levers in the coming year?

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

Look, we do actually, Mike, so thank you for the question. Look, we are on the next evolution of Aon Business Services and, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, expanding from just driving efficiency to really improve customer service delivery and innovation at scale, helping us accelerate growth. And so, as we think about, you know, margins, we think about margins again over the course of the full year sustainably and over the long term. And year to date, we saw 90 basis points of margin expansion and offset by investments in the business, including people and in our technology.

In particular, we saw an increased investment in IT, 13% year to date, and the majority of this is around our core business platforms to help clients and support revenue growth. And you saw capex up as well, again driving long-term margin expansion through the continued investments around standardized operations, standardized platforms, and innovation at scale, which we are really excited about in Aon Business Services. Eric, do you want to add -- yeah.

Eric Andersen -- President

Thank you, Christa. One comment -- yeah, one comment on it because I know the question was on efficiency. But the ability to leverage the analytics that we have inside of ABS helped us develop the Human Sustainability Index, helped us create the -- the insight that we're able to bring to corporate clients as they think about managing their climate exposure from a property standpoint. How all of that comes together is part of the ABS strategy and how we execute it. So, while there is efficiency, there is great opportunity, I think, to drive new products, new solutions, and better solutions that, you know, our larger clients are looking for us to help them with.

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

And just to remind you, Mike, we brought in -- we've been working on this since 2017 -- actually prior to that, but 2017. We have, literally, with the leadership under Christa, our new COO, and others have brought a -- Mindy -- tremendous amount of capability to bear. And now, we're on kind of the next wave building on a very very strong platform that we pulled together. So, for us, we're very excited about this for both the efficiency reasons that Christa described very well and then the effectiveness outcomes that Eric described. And that really is the muscle and the foundation of Aon Business Services.

Very excited about it.

Mike Zaremski -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question is coming from the line of Weston Bloomer with UBS. Pleased proceed with your questions.

Weston Bloomer -- UBS -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning. My first question is on comp and benefits. It looked like that ticked up pretty meaningfully over the last five-quarter trend.

And you highlighted investments in colleagues, and there's a pretty high competition for talent. Could you maybe comment on the pace of hiring you're seeing more broadly? And was there maybe a pickup in retention-based comp in the quarter? We'd be curious on maybe attrition rates in commercial risk and reinsurance as well. Thank you.

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

So, Weston -- and so, maybe I'll just start with sort of the math of just, you know, if you think about this -- and again, we look at this over a full year -- but if you just did year to date, you'd say organic revenue growth is 7% year to date, comp and ben is up 4% year to date. And so, there's lumpiness in every quarter. And so, what we would say is, you know, we -- we feel good about that. And in terms of, you know, attrition, we would note that attrition in 2023 is below 2019 or below pre-pandemic levels. And so, we feel really good about where attrition is across the board.

And we also would note that engagement levels are at the highest they've ever been in the firm's history. And so, we feel really good about the talent we're attracting. But, Eric, you may want to jump in here just in terms of the talent side.

Eric Andersen -- President

Yeah, sure, Christa. And I always think that the industry spends a lot of time reading the headlines on some of the industry rags about people move here and there. And I think it -- it gets over-rotated. And, Christa, you shared some of the great stats.

I will say we are making some pretty significant talent investments in our core health and benefit business, in our strategy and technology group inside of reinsurance, some of our key geographies where we're seeing great growth opportunities. So, a lot of great things happening there, Christa. And you shared the metrics of engagement and attrition and things like that. But I would -- one last comment I would make on it is, on our risk capital and human capital platforms, it actually allows us to increase the flexibility of where we deploy talent to opportunities. So, being able to take reinsurance analytics and help a commercial client think about analytics like an insurance company does, I think, gives us a real competitive advantage.

But other than that, we continue to invest pretty heavily in our talent, and we would expect to do so coming in the future.

Weston Bloomer -- UBS -- Analyst

Great, thank you. And then, my second question is on wealth solutions' organic. I know you had highlighted difficult comp on performance fees in the quarter. I was wondering if you could maybe quantify that impact.

And then, is wealth solutions a business where you could see mid-single-digit organic growth over the next year, maybe more in line with the rest of Aon? You know, that -- that growth had been lower single digits over the past few years. So, curious if we're seeing maybe momentum there.

Eric Andersen -- President

Yeah. Maybe I'll take that one, Greg. I -- look, I think the wealth solutions business is a great business for us, and we do see growth opportunities over the mid and long term. If you think about the pieces of it, the retirement piece, which is the pension actuarial work, continues to be a solid business for us.

There's a -- whether it's in the pension de-risking that Christa mentioned, or whether it's just the regulatory changes, that drive activity. The U.K., EMEA, very solid this quarter. And then there's the investment --investment management business. The advisory business continue to be pretty strong. The delegated part of it continue to have some impact from the AUM movements from -- in the U.K.

and North America that we talked about last time. But overall, really bullish on the business and, you know, expect that it will hit mid-single digits for us as we -- as we go down the road.

Weston Bloomer -- UBS -- Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Bob Huang with Morgan Stanley. Please proceed with your questions.

Bob Huang -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Hi. Thank you. I know that you've talked quite a bit about tech innovation and efficiency. Maybe you can just dig a little bit deeper on the cost of AI implementation, right? Obviously, tremendous potential down the road, but from what we've seen recently, for example, Microsoft just announced that their AI-enabled products are twice as expensive as non-AI-enabled products.

Just going down that line of thinking, can you maybe help us think about how your AI investments fits into the cost of that, fits into your three areas of investing with Aon business right now?

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, look, thank you so much for the question, Bob. And we are super excited about AI more broadly and how it can apply to our business. And we would say we think about this in terms of everything from really basic, you know, machine learning, robotic process automation, all of that stuff that helps us drive automation and efficiency at the sort of very low end. Very cheap, Bob, and super scalable.

And we're really looking to implement that broadly across our business to help our colleagues get out of the sort of day to day, you know, cutting and pasting and inefficient processes that they're doing today and, equally, to make things much easier for clients to interact with us and do business. And so, that's sort of the low end. And then, you could say, you know, at the high-end, sort of, you know, generative AI, it's really helping us drive insight and impact in the analytical areas that Eric was describing around risk capital and human, capital catastrophe modeling, helping us add data sets, the human capital assistant, helping clients interact with human capital assistant, much like they would an expert in human capital today. And so, Bob, we're very thoughtful about the cost of this and where it's best to use basic technology, you know, machine learning, robotic process automation, because it's just cheaper and more efficient and more scalable broadly. And where we're really trying to have insight and impact with clients, then use generative AI.

And so, we're sort of scaling it depending on the impact and opportunity.

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

And I just had two observations to add to this. First, we've been doing AI, as Christa described, really for a decade. So, it's not as if we haven't been incorporating this. It's one of the reasons we drove Aon Business Services.

And that's my second observation. Because we have Aon Business Services, because we've been working since 2017, we actually have a platform to scale these ideas. Absent Aon Business Services, literally, you know, the ability to kind of get this moved around 120 countries around the world is basically zero. So, you can come up with a good idea and a geography, but how do you actually systematically move it around the world? So, one of the reasons we're excited about our ability to do this and do it cost effectively is Aon Business Services.

Bob Huang -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

OK. Thank you. That was extremely helpful. My second question, maybe just to go back to the line of questioning regarding commercial risk solutions, right? And obviously, you talked in depth about why the U.S.

segment is the way it is. But you also -- one of the things we noticed is that Asia has been strong for a few quarters in the last quarter. You also saw strength in Latin America and rest of the world. Just as we gradually come back to a more normal M&A market in the U.S., how durable is the growth in the rest of the world? I'm just trying to think, down to next year, how we should think about commercial risk solutions growth going forward.

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

Listen, we -- as we -- as we have described, we feel very good about the progress about the kind of the overall Aon United strategy. The core fundamentals, as you highlighted well, geographically, very strong. Even in North America, retention, very good; new business, very good; core P&C, exceptional. You know, we just have a wonderfully strong business capability in the area of M&A services which, by the way, we're feeling now but we embrace completely because as the market comes back, as Eric described, we benefit from that as well.

But the fundamentals, the track, is everything we've described around, literally, winning more clients, have been doing more with them and keeping them longer for all the reasons that we talked about around our overall Aon United strategy. So, you know, we're feeling very very good about trajectory and momentum, recognizing there are market conditions out there but good about that overall. Eric, what else would you add to that perspective?

Eric Andersen -- President

Yeah, maybe the only other angle I would say, Greg, is the sophistication of the products that are entering into places, like Asia-Pacific and Latin America, continue to evolve as the clients evolve. So, whether it's risk financing techniques, whether it's specialty products, whether it's the international, as those organizations expand outside their home countries. So, as those economies continue to develop, whether it's India, whether it's other parts of Asia, you know, we're able to grow with them and help them as they need more sophisticated products. So, you know, we are very excited about the platforms that we have in Latin America and Asia-Pacific, and we do see good growth opportunities over the long term.

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

One other point on that, Bob, just to sort of make it, I was in Singapore with Christa a month ago, opening our global climate hub, phenomenal. And we had the opportunity to go around and see so many different clients in that perspective. It really reflected exactly what Eric is describing. Their needs are becoming more global, more interconnected. They want to see global Aon sort of in their backyard.

And that was a very very positive sort of overall kind of finding as we're standing and thinking about that. It really does bode well with the opportunities are. And then, if you take that in some of Eric's other comments around risk capital and what it really means, bringing reinsurance analytics into the commercial space in an effective way, also something that was very very positive. So, just -- just a specific example, in the regions, as you highlighted, where we see particular opportunities, same is true in Latin America.

Bob Huang -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

OK. Thank you. That was tremendously helpful.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Rob Cox with Goldman Sachs. Please proceed with your questions.

Robert Cox -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Hey, good morning. Thanks for taking my questions. So, in reinsurance solutions, really strong results obviously, but I would have thought you would see more acceleration or essential -- sequential acceleration given the Aon Benfield exposure to property cat in the U.S. Can you provide some color there? And then, also, on the prospects for growth in the back half of the year in reinsurance, we've seen some -- some news articles regarding kind of an above-average chunk of the facultative business being hired by a competitor.

Eric Andersen -- President

Sure. Greg, you want me to -- want me to take that one? So, on the first half, listen, we're really, you know, proud, excited whatever word we can use, on our reinsurance capabilities. Really great first half, great second quarter, great first half, coming off of a couple of great years. Just remember that most of the treaty business happens in the first half, and so a lot of that is now finished. But I would say that as clients have been dealing with the changing reinsurance market, they've made their own decisions.

Sometimes they don't buy certain layers, sometimes they buy less, sometimes they buy differently. And so, you know, that's always a decision that we help our clients make as they think through how they want to use reinsurance capital for their business. It does, by the way, explain a little bit of what's going on in the primary market around property. As more of the risk is now sitting on the primary insurers, they're now dealing with how do they price it and what kind of risk do they take. So, it is an interconnected system of reinsurance and insurance.

So, just -- just to point that out. And I think, on the second half, tends to be more around the ILS business and facultative business. And I do think we had a very strong first half, in fact. And our expectation is that should continue as the primary clients now may have less low-level reinsurance protection on property catastrophe or secondary perils like wildfires or hailstorms or what have you. And so, the ability for the insurers to manage that exposure, the tool that they would use now is facultative reinsurance on an individual risk basis.

And the last point I'll make and, Greg, maybe I'll throw it to you, is facultative reinsurance is also being used on things like captives or large corporates where they're also retaining more of the risk themselves. So, don't just think about it as a reinsurance tool. You should also start to think about it as large corporates that are trying to access, not just traditional insurance markets, but also reinsurance markets, but in fact, it's the way they do that. But, Greg, maybe anything you'd add on that?

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

You summarized it very well, Eric. I would add a couple of things on the talent point overall and in reinsurance. Look, reinsurance, our colleagues, this has been strength to strength, really over the last five years. It's been a tour de force.

It's also one of the areas we've invested heavily in continuing content capability, not just core reinsurance. But if you think about what we're doing in cat bonds and in ILS, we lead the world in this. The work we've done in strategy and technology group, Eric described before, this is just substantial investment. And with this core in reinsurance, we now have this incorporated into the overall risk capital effort. And so, this is really for us.

You know, we're very -- we're excited about the possibilities and the capability we have to help clients. And it continues to build, which is why we feel so strongly positive about the second half of the year and the ongoing results here.

Robert Cox -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thanks for the color. And maybe moving back to commercial risk, if we exclude these external factors on the M&A services business, is it fair to assume that the remainder of the business accelerated sequentially kind of along with the accelerating renewal premium change that we saw in the market this quarter?

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

I mean, Rob, we're not giving specific guidance on commercial risk at that level. What we would say is, you know, we're extremely excited about year-to-date growth of 7% overall for Aon and on track for mid-single digit or greater organic revenue growth for the full year. And obviously, we've had a real headwind in this M&A area given transaction volume, as Greg described, is down 30% to 40%. And we expect that softness to continue into the second half of the year.

Robert Cox -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

OK. Thanks. And maybe just one last question. On health solutions, you know, really strong growth.

Just you guys pointed to the growth outside of the United States being particularly strong, and I'm just curious what's -- what's driving that? Is that market share gains, you know, medical inflation, any color you could provide there?

Eric Andersen -- President

So, I would say more of market share gains and the ability of the team to work together globally through Global Benefits. Remember, the health systems are different everywhere in the world. So, when you look at the U.S. system versus the U.K.

versus Europe or anywhere in Asia-Pacific or LatAm, they're very different. But the needs are often of one organization expanding globally, they need that expertise. And so, our global team, really well connected, working together to be able to help global clients as well as local clients. So, we think it's market share gains in the local -- local countries and really excited about what they've been doing over the course of the last year or two.

Robert Cox -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from the line of Elyse Greenspan with Wells Fargo. Please proceed with your questions.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Hi. Thanks. Good morning. My first question, Christa, I think last quarter, you had pointed to capex of around 200 million to 225 million for the year.

Is part -- I just want to confirm that that's still, you know, your kind of best estimate there. And so, would the -- the improvement in free cash flow in the back half, I guess, is going to come from a combination of lower capex and just growth in operating cash flow?

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

Elyse, we actually have increased our capex guidance to be 220 million to 250 million for 2023. And that's really driven by the investments we're making across Aon Business Services platforms and our -- and applications to drive future growth. And so, we're really excited about that. The improvement in free cash flow and the double-digit free cash flow growth for the year is going to be driven by operating income growth and working capital.

And I did note that second-half free cash flow growth is always significantly stronger than first half.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Thanks. And then, my second question, going back to commercial risk, I recognize right that you guys do have a good market share within the M&A business, right? That -- that has slowed, but you will have easier comps in the back half of the year. So, even recognizing that there'll be some headwinds from, you know, just still low M&A volume, wouldn't you expect sequentially commercial risk to show better growth in the back half relative to the first half of the year?

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

Elyse, I'll try and do this again because I probably didn't explain this well the first time. What we -- we are lapping the comps, that's absolutely right. But what we're seeing in the external market is continued pressure into the second half of the year in the M&A environment, so we expect that trend to continue.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

OK. And then, in reinsurance solutions, Greg, I think you highlighted just, you know, kind of robust cat bond activity you guys have seen. How do you -- you know, what are you seeing on the capital side within the reinsurance market and, you know, thoughts just for the potential opportunities over, you know, the rest of the year and then also into 2024?

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

Within overall, Elyse -- and Eric should comment on this for sure -- look, there's still pressure here. There continues to be pressure on the capital side. We're incredibly vigilant about finding options, matching capital at risk in terms of what we do for our clients every day. We're navigating through it.

You're seeing movement on the ILS side. We talked about, you know, 5 billion we've done in 21 deals year to date, which has been phenomenal. So, we do see an opportunity there, but it's still constrained. There's still pressure. Eric, what else would you add to that?

Eric Andersen -- President

Yeah, look, Greg, I would say I'll do the -- the ILS side first is, ultimately, we're seeing investors that have historically invested in cat bonds, you know, allocate more to it, so they see opportunity. Investors that had walked away from the area have sort of returned, as well as new. So, you're seeing some expanded sort of market opportunity, which is why I think that market has been so dynamic in the first six months. I think on the -- on the overall capital provision of the reinsurance market, you're starting to see an equilibrium. You're seeing the big players get more active.

We see opportunities, especially on the property cat side. And so -- and you're seeing investors look to participate in support either through their funds or other ways, not necessarily in new company creation, which is sort of what would normally happen in this cycle, but more in support of existing players who are already leaders in the industry. So, we're getting to an equilibrium around pricing of property cat. Certainly, as you go into the 1/1 renewals in five months, there'll be talk of inflation, there'll be talk of, you know, what happens over the hurricane season in the summer and other events. But I do think that, as the market has moved, it has found an equilibrium in property cat, as well as on the casualty side of the business.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Next question is coming from the line of Maya -- excuse me, David Motemaden with Evercore ISI. Please go with your questions.

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning. Just had a follow-up question on commercial risk. You guys spoke about this a couple quarters ago.

I believe it was the fourth quarter you said the capital markets activity had a five-point drag on the organic growth in commercial risk. Could you size how much of a drag that had on organic growth in commercial risk this quarter?

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

So, we have not disclosed that detail. We did, as you mentioned, disclose it in Q4, and we haven't disclosed it going forward. What I can say is we're the leader in the space, and we're incredibly excited about our capabilities as Greg and Eric have described, and this is having a real impact on our business. But we're continuing to invest in it because we know, as M&A volume comes back, this business is incredibly well positioned to do fantastically well.

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

And, David, we continue to reinforce, literally, the exact guidance we had before. And as we think about where we are, we mentioned greater for the year overall for the business even in the face of this -- of this -- this challenge that Christa described.

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Got it. And also, just to clarify, so, you know, tough comps in this business in the second half of -- of -- or I guess the comps are definitely easier. I think, second half of '22, is that very depressed? So, is it that you guys -- you guys aren't expecting it to be down again off of that depressed base, but it's more just you don't see a recovery off of that depressed base? Is that the right way to put it?

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

It's literally as simple as you almost listen to the investment bank calls, we can talk to the CEOs of those institutions. As that activity comes back, we are incredibly well positioned, not just in the core areas we've done before, but also with the broader commercial applications as Eric described before. So, we've just gotten stronger. Literally, as the transactions come back and the volume comes back, we're there.

And so, you can predict as well as anyone, all we're trying to do is be clear.

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Got it. That's helpful. And then, you know, just on continued investment in -- in tech and talent, and it also sounds like even with the increased outlook on -- on capex for the year, it's going to tick down in the back half of the year. And I'm just trying to just, you know, compare that, the continued investment in talent that it sounds like you guys are making.

Should I take that to mean that more of the expenses are going to be coming through opex instead of running through capex, and then there could be a little bit more of a -- of a headwind to margin improvement in the second half?

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

So, what we really said was we've given guidance on capex, 220 million to 2250 million. Yes, you're absolutely right, capex is a little front loaded with how the projects worked out this year, but we do think about it over the course of a full-year, capex 220 million to 250 million for 2023. In terms of margin expansion, we expect full-year margin expansion. We are on track for mid-single digit organic -- mid-single digit or greater organic revenue growth, margin expansion for the full year, and double-digit free cash flow growth. And so, yes, things are patterning slightly, you know, more in the first half in terms of some expense growth and capex growth, but really, you should think about these things over the course of a full year.

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

OK. Great. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. The next question is from the line of Meyer Shields with KBW. Please proceed with your questions.

Meyer Shields -- Keefe, Bruyette and Woods -- Analyst

Great. Thanks so much, and good morning. I guess we're all digesting just how significant the M&A practice is in terms of revenues. Maybe you could give us some guidance in terms of how to think about the margin impact, whether it's what you've seen in recent quarters or what that implies for margin expansion when the -- when this business line recovers.

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, so thank you so much, Meyer. What I would tell you is we are on track for full-year margin expansion. And, you know, the margin in this business -- you know, we continue to manage the business as an overall portfolio. And I would say they're not particularly different to the rest of the business.

We are focused on continuing to invest our entire portfolio in higher-revenue growth, higher-margin areas supported by Aon Business Services with the analytical impact. And what I would say is, as you think about margin expansion, you know, long term, it's really just another way to measure the value we create for clients, which is why our data analytics and insight matters so much, because that's increasingly what drives value as our clients look to understand forward-looking risk. And so, it's those areas of the business that generate more value for clients. And then, obviously, with Aon Business Services, we're driving to create that value more efficiently, which is why we're really investing in Aon Business Services to get it to the next level around driving operational excellence, better customer service, and increased innovation at scale. And so, we're really confident about driving sustainable margin expansion in 2023 and each year beyond that.

Meyer Shields -- Keefe, Bruyette and Woods -- Analyst

OK, understood. The second question, I know you typically don't disclose expected tax rates. And unless you want to change the approach now, I'm just hoping you could let us know, given OECD minimum tax reform, internally, are you expecting the tax rate to go up?

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

So, Meyer, as you exactly predicted, we are not giving guidance on the tax rate going forward. As I look back historically, exclusive of the impact of discrete items, which can be positive or negative, our historic underlying rate over the last five years was 18%. So, we feel really good about our overall global capital structure, our global cash structure, and our ability to navigate regulation and legislative changes going forward.

Meyer Shields -- Keefe, Bruyette and Woods -- Analyst

OK, fair enough. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our last question is from the line of Jimmy Bhullar with J.P. Morgan. Please proceed with your questions.

Jimmy Bhullar -- JPMorgan Chase and Company -- Analyst

Hey, good morning. So, first, I just had a question for Christa on how you think about the impact of inflation on your results. Obviously, it helps on the revenue side, but to the extent there's competition for talent or higher IT expenses, then it hurts on margins. But assuming inflation stays high, is that a positive for you overall, or is it a negative, or a push?

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you very much, Jimmy. So, what we would say is inflation, overall, is good for our business, and what we've seen so far is the inflationary impact on our expense base. You saw compensation impacted in '21, '22, and again in the first half of '23. We've seen that come through on the expense base.

What we're starting to see come through is inflation impacts on the revenue side, whether that's increased asset values or whether that's medical and healthcare inflation. So, it's impacting commercial risk and health, you know, insurance prices, and therefore, our revenue lines. And we expect that impact on inflation to come through in our revenue over the next 12 to 24 months. And so, we would expect that positive side of inflation to start coming through. But, Eric, anything else you'd add here on inflation?

Eric Andersen -- President

Yeah. Listen, I think how asset values are repriced, I think that is something that's been sort of reput into the business in a more consistent way, especially on the property side. I think inflation around, you know, verdicts on the liability side, I think it is, as you're saying, impacting pricing from an insurer standpoint. I would say it also creates sort of decision-making that the client will make. So, the clients may take higher retentions, they may use captives that requires different support.

It may -- they may take things on their own balance sheet versus transferring it. So, it's not a straight line, and often, it will turn into other capabilities that we can provide clients service for rather than just straight-up insurance pricing. So, you know, the clients are reacting to inflation the way any business would, and so that gives us an opportunity to provide a broader suite of capabilities to them as they're managing it.

Jimmy Bhullar -- JPMorgan Chase and Company -- Analyst

OK. And then, on share buybacks, the last few years, they've been heavier in the second half than in the first half. Should we assume a similar pattern this time and especially considering that your free cash flow is going to be higher as well? Or does the buyback activity, thus far, this year already incorporate the higher free cash flow in the second half?

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, so Jimmy, what we would tell you is we think about allocating cash based on return on capital, cash on cash return, and our highest return on capital opportunity remains share repurchase. And so, as we generate cash, you can think about us allocating it disproportionately to buy back because it sets the bar for all other uses of cash. And, look, what we would say is we don't actually forecast buyback by quarter, but you can see in any calendar year, it's the highest use of cash across the firm. And so, you know, whether that's cash is coming from debt or operating cash flow, as we generate that cash, we'll utilize it to buyback or M&A or organic investment depending on the ROIC return. And we definitely see huge opportunity to invest in buyback given we are substantially undervalued today based on the way we value our business on a DCF basis.

Jimmy Bhullar -- JPMorgan Chase and Company -- Analyst

OK. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. I would now like to turn the call back over to Greg Case for closing remarks.

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

I just want to say thank you, everyone, for joining, and we look forward to the discussion next quarter. Have a great day.

Operator

[Operator signoff]

Duration: 0 minutes

Call participants:

Greg Case -- Chief Executive Officer

Christa Davies -- Chief Financial Officer

Charlie Lederer -- Citi -- Analyst

Eric Andersen -- President

Mike Zaremski -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Weston Bloomer -- UBS -- Analyst

Bob Huang -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Robert Cox -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Meyer Shields -- Keefe, Bruyette and Woods -- Analyst

Jimmy Bhullar -- JPMorgan Chase and Company -- Analyst

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