November 27, 2023

"Employee shareholding is an integral part of the AXA culture and a way to share the value created by the Group."

Employee shareholding plays a major role in the AXA Group's strategy. It is essential that employees have the opportunity to become more involved in the Group's success by becoming shareholders. Helen Browne, elected employee shareholder representative to the AXA Board of Directors in 2020, looks back on the highlights of her term.

Read time:5 minutes

You are the employee shareholder representative on AXA's Board of Directors. What is your role? What have you already learned from this experience?

Elected as employee shareholders in 2020, I've been the employee shareholder representative for more than 3 years now. Once appointed to the Board, all directors have the same role and duties which is to act in the interest of all shareholders and other stakeholders. In practice, I see this role as a bridge between the company, the employees and the Board: I explain the different tasks and decisions of the Board to the teams and help them provide the best and most useful information to the Board and on the other hand, I help inform Board decisions by providing background about the entities, operations, projects, people and culture of the organization, as well as representing the views of shareholder employees.  I have both a technical role within the Board of Directors and a transversal role with the teams.

What have you observed during your appointment? What challenges did you face and what were your main actions?

The biggest challenge for the Board during my mandate was probably Covid, as we all learned together how to navigate unchartered waters. It was impressive to see how the different Board members who came from very different industries (energy, aerospace, pharma, asset management) bring different views to the table and as a team supported Thomas Buberl and guided the Company through the Pandemic.

What I have learned from my mandate by talking to many employees in different countries is that  there was not always a clear understanding of what share ownership represents; why there are share offerings,  the benefits associated with Shareplan, and the difference between the two annual offers.

After discussing this with HR and Comms, we decided that we needed to take some concrete actions to build a better understanding. This is why we launched a global survey to gather questions, impressions, and suggestions from employee shareholders around the world. We received almost 5,000 responses which was a remarkable result for a first survey. But - and this is the most important answer to the question - what did we learn?

The majority of respondents mentioned the difficulty they experienced in finding and understanding all the information they needed to make a decision. It's true that, depending on the type of ownership, it may be necessary to consult different platforms, and it's not always easy to find clear answers. We decided to redesign the website initially dedicated exclusively to Shareplan, to enable all employees - including employee shareholders - to find in one single place all the information and answers to their questions.

Next, we reviewed the format of our annual video at the launch of Shareplan to make it more informative and to answer some of the questions posed in the survey such as why we propose two offers?

We decided to go one step further, reshaping the documentation and also encouraging entities to organize their own webinars to assist their employees and respond to local issues. This year, 12 webinars on Shareplan were organized throughout our entities compared to 2 last year!  I would like to say a big thank you to all the teams for making this such a success!

We also observed a gap between employees who are very knowledgeable about finance, versus employees who want to improve financial culture. We are currently developing a new project, in collaboration with the HR teams, scheduled for the first half of 2024 to address this demand so watch this space.

Finally, we also decided to open the Shareholders’ Circle – initially reserved for external and individual shareholders - to employee shareholders to offer them the possibility to benefit from services such as cultural and thematic conferences, private visits and events. The aim is to create a community who feel completely integrated in the broader AXA shareholder community.

Why is employee shareholding important for AXA?

In 1993, AXA launched Shareplan – the employee shareholding offering - for the first time to enable employees to participate in the growth of the Group. For the past 30 years, the offer has taken place every year without interruption. Today, almost 42,000 employees (30% of all our employees) are shareholders in over 40 countries, and they own together 6% of the AXA voting rights and so constitute one of AXA’s biggest shareholders.

Employee shareholding is therefore an integral part of the AXA Group's corporate culture and its strategy to share in the value created on an annual basis.

I think it is fair to say that Shareplan took root at the heart of our corporate culture. Beyond being an important benefit for employees allowing them to develop their savings through carefully constructed offers, it symbolizes our employees’ commitment to this Group.

When employees decide to invest, it means that they feel confident in AXA’s strategy, leadership, governance and long term vision and want to be part of the success of the Group. They can show this by voting at the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting.  Our culture is that AXA’s employee shareholders’ voices count and should be heard.

Seeing the share price rise or receiving the annual dividend is the fruit of all our hard work but beyond the financial benefits of subscribing to Shareplan, we are all also committing to supporting AXA to become the most successful insurance company in the world, not just financially, but also as an employer, committed to creating an inclusive environment for its employees and more generally, playing a key role in some of the most important societal issues of our times.

You mentioned Shareplan, what was the program for 2023?

We proposed two distinct investment formulas: The Classic Offer, where employees buy shares at a 20% discount to the market price and receive the dividends paid annually and the Guarantee Plus Offer where the employees’ personal investment is guaranteed in addition to a guaranteed minimum return of 5% per annum (compared to 3% last year), so that employees do not bear the market risk of share price movements in the same way as in the Classic Offer.

For AXA, it is important to propose offers that are adapted for all employees. Some employees are looking for a secure saving product, with no capital loss risk, while others are ready to take market risk linked to changes in the AXA share price.

We believe it is extremely important that each employee who wants to become a shareholder can do so in the way that makes most more sense for him/her at different moments in her/his career.

What are the results of this year's operation? How would you qualify them?

For this 30th edition, employees were particularly invested: the results are excellent! More than 23,000 employees participated, that is to say 21% of eligible employees (vs 19% last year) with a global investment of nearly €348 M, growing 17% versus last year (+25% in the Classic Offer and +14% in the Guarantee Plus Offer). Finally, the employee average personal investment increased by 10.7% versus last year despite a sustained inflation context. I think this proves that the two offers matched with employees’ expectations.

It also shows how Shareplan has become year after year a not-to-be-missed event.

Thank you for your continued support and never hesitate to ask about my role at the Board or feedback on how more can make Shareplan even better.


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