AXA chief Amanda Blanc was talking at a climate change and SME conference in Paris

Amanda Blanc

The insurance industry must “talk the language of SMEs” if it is to help them prepare against the growing threat of climate change, says AXA UK and Ireland boss Amanda Blanc.

Speaking at the Business Unusual conference at AXA Group HQ in Paris, Blanc said that too often the industry is “pompous” in the way it talks to customers, leaving them underprepared and confused in the event of a major weather incident.

“We need to talk the language of SMEs. If an SME needs its plug sockets moved half way up the wall because it is at flood risk, then lets tell it exactly that and not talk pompously to it in our insurance language.

“As the threat of climate change rises, we as an industry have a responsibility to do more for SMEs to help them prepare.”

Blanc’s message comes as a study reveals that 79% of SMEs believe the insurance industry should be doing more to support them with resilience plans against climate change.

The research, conducted by the Penn Schoen Berland Institute in association with AXA, found that 77% of SMEs believe climate change is one of the biggest long term threats to their business, with nearly a quarter claiming they buy their business insurance with climate change in mind.

The research comes as Paris prepares itself for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in November, when global leaders will join together to tackle the key issues around climate change.

AXA group chairman and chief executive Henri de Castries said that businesses must start acting on climate change now, but that it could pose as much of an opportunity as it does a threat.

He said: “If companies can adjust and become smarter, then it will fuel future prosperity. Businesses can use the challenge to open up to innovation and embrace technological progress. The time to act is not 2100, it is not 2050, and it is not even 2020. It is now.”