AXA’s investment arm was picketed by animal rights protesters this week as part of a campaign against investment in animal testing firm Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS).

AXA Investment, which manages surplus funds from the insurer’s UK business, is a major investor in the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), where shares in HLS are traded.

Protest group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) claims: “For every share traded an animal dies at Huntingdon Life Sciences.”

AXA Investment’s London office in Newgate Street was picketed on Tue-sday lunchtime by about 20 protest-ors with leaflets and loudhailers.

Meanwhile, brokers have forced AXA to make a swift apology this week after the insurer claimed brokers caused delays to business customers buying insurance.

The Institute of Insurance Brokers (IIB) highlighted a mailshot from AXA’s direct arm that said: “Choosing the right level of cover isn’t always easy and going through a broker can take time. So we have a team of insurance experts, to advise you on the best package for your business.”

IIB director Barry Fehler said: “Going through a broker can be slow because we are held up by insurers like AXA with poor service standards, I wish we could talk to one of their ‘experts’ from 8am to 6pm.”

AXA said: “We apologise unreservedly. It was not our intention to upset brokers. It will not be repeated.” It was a mistake.” AXA was unable to say how much of its commercial business came through brokers or how many mailshots had been sent out.