Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, new AXA commercial chief executive Amanda Blanc talks job losses, promotions, AXA’s local presence and her plans for Bluefin

AXA commercial chief executive Amanda Blanc has outlined a radical new management structure, which will include job losses.

The new structure will see: underwriting and claims absorbed into one function under David Williams; two new market-facing roles created; and much closer integration with AXA’s broking business Bluefin.

Blanc, who has been in post for just two weeks, confirmed Williams’ appointment to the new post of underwriting and claims director.

She also confirmed Stuart Reid’s continued role as chief executive of Bluefin. She will make appointments for the other six top jobs in AXA's commercial division within the next 30 days. Click here to download the AXA commercial leadership structure chart.

Jobs to go

Blanc admitted that jobs would be cut in her radical overhaul of the business, and said there would also be a number of external appointments. Longstanding underwriting boss Roy Watkinson departed last week.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Blanc said: “The roles mostly don’t exist at the moment. There will inevitably be some job losses – how many, what they will be and who they will be, I don’t know yet.”

Asked whether she expected to make internal or external appointments, Blanc said: “It’s difficult to say – there are a lot of talented people in AXA, but I do see some of the appointments being external.”

Asked whether she was able to employ staff from Towergate, where she was formerly deputy group chief executive, Blanc replied: “I am bound by the usual covenants.”

New roles

Key to Blanc’s top team will be two new roles: managing director of intermediary and direct, and commercial director. The managing director of intermediary and direct will be Blanc’s primary trader, while the commercial director will work with brokers to design and develop new products, for example, in e-commerce.

Blanc said: “If you are going to build an exciting strategy and have it be successful, you have to have the right people.”

Integration with Bluefin

Blanc is bringing together the central functions of AXA and its broker, Bluefin – the first step towards the two businesses working much more closely together.

She said: “Bluefin’s HR, finance and IT directors will now link into the guys in AXA, whereas before they were completely separate. I need oversight of both parts of the business [AXA and Bluefin].

"It’s a more efficient structure, but more importantly it creates synergy between the two organisations. We will be talking to each other in a way that we have never done before – this has been a missed opportunity for the last few years.”

Local offices

Blanc committed to not closing any branch offices, and said she would look at expanding AXA’s presence into new areas. She said sales and underwriting would be brought together under one management team in each branch to ensure quicker and more efficient decision-making.

She said: “We’ve got quite a lot of layers of management and we will be looking to reduce them to ensure that there’s not too many layers between me and the underwriters. It’s important we’re responding to the feedback from the ground and making sure we haven’t got any unnecessary bureaucracy.

"It’s important as well that we create something that doesn’t have any matrix – I don’t really like any matrix structure. I don’t think it gives clear accountability and it’s very confusing for customers.”

Next steps

Blanc revealed her new structure to AXA's staff this morning. She pledged to fill the vacant positions and develop the structure underneath within 30 days; and to have implemented her plans within six weeks after that.

“It’s an aggressive timescale, but we’ve got to get it sorted,” she said. “People are expecting it from me; it’s what they’re looking for. We can’t dilly-dally around.”