Two of America’s largest institutional investing consulting firms — Mercer Inc. and Callan and Associates — are formally merging later this month, and it could be the first significant sign that consolidation among the many institutional advisors is now at hand.

Mercer is a division of Marsh & McLennan Cos., a major New York-based insurance firm. Callan, a 35-year-old firm based in San Francisco, is one of the last major independent consulting firms still standing. Callan’s 170 employees, including 50 researchers, will be combined into Mercer’s 1,100-strong consulting business with 41 offices around the world.

“Both Callan and Mercer have similar business models, cultures and values, and share a commitment to excellence,” says Jeff Schutes, Mercer’s U.S. investment consulting leader based in Chicago. “In the current challenging investment environment, we believe combining our resources will significantly improve our ability to help clients make informed, sound and strategic investment decisions.”

Both sides of the merger fence agree that real estate returns should hold up well over the next decade. Mercer is forecasting annualized returns from real estate investments at 7.3% over the next 10 years, while Callan Associates is slightly more bullish, projecting 7.6% returns.