150 support jobs to go plus 45 in AXA solutions

AXA is to close five branch offices and make around 150 people redundant in a move the insurer claimed would improve service to brokers.

The insurer's Sheffield, Southampton, Maidstone, Cardiff and Carlisle offices will close by 30 September 2006, leaving 12 offices. The job losses will be from clerical support staff and junior underwriters.

AXA said the changes were a response to changing market conditions and broker consolidation.

The insurer said it would now be looking to roll-out a new operating model, piloted at its Ipswich office. This will see back office clerical functions handled by the company's Indian business facility, while guaranteed service standards will be set for brokers.

AXA distribution director Mark Cliff said: "It is always regrettable when jobs are lost but consolidation in the broker market means that we have to change our operating model and distribution network, so that we are better placed to meet both broker and customers' needs by being a real expert friend.

"The new operating model, piloted at Ipswich, will be rolled out across the branch network. It means that our underwriters will concentrate on their core skills and we will be able to introduce service standards that will give brokers greater certainty in the regulated environment in which we work."

Cliff said AXA would discuss service standards with brokers over the coming months in order to determine what brokers wanted. "We want to guarantee these service standards," he said.

He insisted that all brokers would benefit from the changes. He said AXA would be looking to make sure the regional office closures would not prejudice smaller brokers.

"Their account managers won't change, and we will be recruiting staff," said Cliff.

AXA is also looking to cut 45 jobs from its Glasgow-based commercial direct business, AXA Solutions, in a bid to introduce efficiencies.

Cliff said: "We are currently conducting a feasibility study to determine how best to implement any operational changes in the commercial direct business.

"The precise implications will be announced once the study has been concluded later in the year."