Insurer moves to combine commercial direct and broker operations

Brokers fear that AXA is planning to take all small commercial business direct.

Their concerns were raised at the announcement that the insurer is to combine its commercial direct and small broker commercial distribution operations.

Under the moves, AXA Direct Commercial has been combined with AXA's Spirit broker operations, under a single management structure, and rebranded as AXA SME Solutions.

The insurer also revealed that it will be dealing directly with the small business customers of its larger brokers on a white label basis as brokers.

AXA distribution director Mark Cliff said: "Distribution lines are blurring.

"We have to offer a whole range of services to our customers, or our competitors will.

"We still aspire to be the number one in SME.

"But we are seeing more volume business that needs a different model and this is part of our response to that."

AXA claimed the new structure would enable it to develop strategic partnership deals and provide "proactive services to small brokers" through AXA Business Risk.

But one AXA broker feared that it would result in the insurers sidelining smaller brokers and taking all small commercial business direct.

Cliff, however, promised that "90% of the business will still be broker led".

' AXA Business Risk system for commercial brokers, which is currently being piloted by 20% of AXA's brokers, will be rolled-out to the rest of AXA's brokers by the end of July.