Inside the AXA Lab: Students, Surprises and Silicon Valley

In January, 25 MBA students on the Stanford-Tsinghua Exchange Program (STEP) made their way to San Francisco to immerse themselves in the Silicon Valley ecosystem. They met with companies like Google, Facebook, Uber, and also the AXA Lab. The day was organised as part of our strategic partnership with Tsinghua University SEM. ALL NEWS  |  Early Careers
Mar 21, 2016

Naturally, we were curious to know what the students thought of our Lab and the work we’re doing. So we contacted Philip Mertens (Tsinghua MIT Global MBA program) and Niamh Gavin (Stanford University MBA program) to ask them a few questions:

What surprised you the most during your visit?

Philip: The most inspiring part of the visit was as simple as it was unconventional: The decision to not open an isolated office but to join the existing business community at WeWork San Francisco. Working alongside entrepreneurs and thought leaders and contributing actively to the local community, this clearly stands out from the usual approaches we see from large companies.

Niamh: I was initially surprised by how lean the AXA Lab team was, until they explained how the Lab fits into a broader ‘business transformation’ unit. AXA’s willingness to learn from the Valley is refreshing, and it was enlightening to hear about the variety of insurance models being considered.

How has your perception of AXA changed since the visit?

Philip: I was impressed by the confidence with which AXA identifies its strengths and weaknesses, and develops ventures based on this analysis. To give ideas the freedom of being outside the corporate body and leverage outside knowledge - it takes courage to spin it out for the benefit of speed and better results.

Niamh: We’d assumed that such a large, global company was neither willing nor able to change at the pace required to satisfy the modern customer. While the task ahead is large and uncertain we now believe that AXA is able to transform and will leverage their strengths to successfully adapt their services for the 21st Century.

Guillaume Cabrère, head of the AXA Lab

Also shared with us his thoughts on the day:
“We felt pretty humbled to be part of the prestigious list of companies which the students visited, and the only representative of the financial services industry!
Our goal was to share with the students a bit of our journey, when it comes to building our own innovation sourcing pipeline. We tried to give a comprehensive picture of all the various levers AXA was using to accelerate its business transformation.
We got some great feedback and candid questions from extremely smart students on our efforts to not become the disrupted!".