AXA held the third meeting of its Stakeholder Advisory Panel on April 11th /12th in Paris. Top of the agenda was the company’s 2020 strategy and its proposed new brand positioning. Also under discussion were AXA’s health strategy, the impact of global ageing and the company’s efforts to strengthen the role of women in insurance.
Panelists Steve Davis, Nicholas Eberstadt, Christine Farnish, Yolanda Kakabadse and Erwann Michel-Kerjan all attended the two-day meeting. Heng Chee Chan, Andrew Kuper and Betty Mwangi were absent and excused. From AXA, the meeting was attended by CEO Henri de Castries and deputy CEOs Thomas Buberl and Denis Duverne. Also in attendance were Christian Thimann, AXA’s Head of Strategy, Sustainability & Public Affairs, Alice Steenland, Head of Corporate Responsibility, and Simon Clow, Head of Stakeholder Engagement. This was Mr. de Castries’ last meeting before his retirement in September. At the end of the meeting, the panel thanked him for his leadership on key social and environmental issues. Mr. Buberl attended all sessions for the first time; Mr. Buberl will take over from Mr. de Castries as AXA’s CEO on September 1st. Mr. Duverne is also stepping down as deputy CEO in September; he will remain as a member of the panel in his new role as Chairman.
Key discussion points
- Brand strategy – AXA outlined its brand positioning to the panel. This positioning is closely aligned with the company’s overall corporate strategy and purpose. The value of AXA’s brand has risen significantly over the past two years; with increased online use, it was agreed that AXA continues to need a “strong and authentic brand positioning”. During the session, discussion focused on the importance of customer ‘empowerment’ and the possible development of new risk prevention services as a way of improving customer loyalty and engagement.
- Women & insurance – AXA put forward its Women & Insurance strategy to the panel for discussion. Currently, 52% of AXA’s employees are women, but only 38% of its customers. The panel agreed that women represented a clear opportunity for growth, as well as a social responsibility. Investing in women would also help drive broader economic and social development. Panelists said that, as customers, women had a different approach and were more sensitive to risk, but that, ultimately, their requirements were similar to men: speed, simplicity and digital mobility.
- Longevity & changing demographics – Nicholas Eberstadt gave a presentation to the panel on the Global Prospects for Longevity & Health. He pointed to the recent, remarkable improvements in both life expectancy and health in OECD countries. He added that progress had been made in developing countries, but that many were now having to cope with the effects of an ageing population on relatively low national incomes. In their discussion, panelists recognized the importance of ageing to AXA and discussed the possible role of new technologies and data in helping limit rising healthcare costs.
- Health strategy – AXA presented its health strategy to the panel. The strategy is based on four pillars: insurance, care coordination, long-term health protection and prevention & well-being. Panelists agreed on the importance of prevention to the strategy and of engaging customers personally in managing their own healthcare. They also discussed the growing problem of obesity in some countries, and suggested AXA might work with companies from other sectors to develop viable prevention services. During the session, AXA management put forward a proposal to divest from tobacco; panelists welcomed the proposal, agreeing it would help support the company’s overall health strategy.
- Next steps – At Mr. Buberl’s request, panelists and senior AXA management will hold a special conference call at the end of May to discuss the presentation of the 2020 strategy at the company’s Investor Day conference, scheduled for June 21st. This underscores the important role the panel plays in helping guide AXA’s thinking on strategic issues. The next official meeting of the panel will take place in mid-November.
As usual, panelists debated possible topics of discussion for the next meeting. Several were put forward, including: emerging customers /micro-insurance, climate change post-COP21, innovations in healthcare treatment, data privacy, trends in industry regulation, engagement with the public sector and the upcoming Habitat III conference in Quito.