Over 100 jobs to go as Blanc aims to streamline management structure

Amanda Blanc has assembled the top team at AXA commercial and is ready to seek growth with a new branch structure, new products and improved relations with distribution arm Bluefin. Meanwhile, 110 jobs are set to go as part of her restructure.

She has also answered questions around her surprise decision last year to leave Towergate – where she was poised to take over from chief executive Andy Homer – and join AXA in a new and challenging role reporting to group chief executive Paul Evans.

Blanc’s main appointments are mostly people she has worked with before – Alisdair Stewart and David Williams in her previous role at AXA, and Matthew Reed at Towergate.

Reed’s appointment will raise eyebrows, as Blanc is bound by covenants that prevent her from approaching Towergate employees for 12 months.

In an exclusive interview with Insurance Times, she insisted Reed had resigned from Towergate before approaching her, and that he had been in talks with a number of employers.

“When he resigned from Towergate, we were all waiting eagerly to see what would happen. Fortunately, Matthew approached us,” she said.

Chain of command

There will inevitably be departures as well as arrivals at AXA. Longstanding underwriting boss Roy Watkinson has already left, and about 110 other individuals are in redundancy talks. Among them is distribution director Keith Hector.

“There have been too many layers of management, and too much decision making in head office – these are the areas that will be affected,” Blanc said. “Too often, insurance companies air their dirty linen in public – they say: ‘We’re restructuring for this and that …’ and the customer can’t see any benefit. We’re desperate to keep the relationships with customers in place through this process – that is the bit that works very well.”

She added that 96% of front-line trading staff would be unaffected.

Blanc defended AXA’s service record, saying the insurer had made huge improvements. “I’m tired of people saying the service is rubbish. That’s not true from where I’m sitting – and believe me, I’ve looked at all the numbers. My challenge to the broker community is: try it and see. Judge me by my actions, not someone else’s.

“See where we are in six months. If you like it, you’ll place business with us; if you don’t, you’ll place it somewhere else.”

Click here to read the full interview with Amanda Blanc.

Pass notes: Blanc's move

Why all the fuss?
Amanda Blanc was poised to take over as chief exec of Towergate when she suddenly, and surprisingly, left for AXA last year.

What's happened since?
Blanc hasn't hung around. She's put in place a new top team, including two market hires: the CII's Alisdair Stewart and Blanc's former Towergate colleague, Matthew Reed.

What happens next?
Now she's placed her bets, Blanc will be looking for results. AXA's profits are down and its combined operating ratio more than 105%, so she will be looking for big account wins and new distribution deals.

And what about Towergate?
That's the big question. Towergate is expected to announce a new management structure soon. The smart money is on Admiral chair Alastair Lyons taking over from Peter Cullum, who will take a vice-chair role. The search is also on for chief exec Andy Homer's replacement; Clive Nathan and Tim Johnson are internal favourites and headhunters are scouring the market.