In the latest of a series of interviews with insurance leaders, we ask the chief executive of AXA Insurance about his vision for the industry.

How do you see the market unfolding in two years’ time? I hope the market will have entered a period of hardening in certain classes, however the underlying trends will not be dramatically different. Competition will remain intense, particularly in personal lines, and consolidation will recover as the credit crunch eases. Manufacturers will need to transact business at sustainable commission levels to continue to deliver acceptable returns. I would imagine manufacturers and distributors will continue to struggle to define a clear line of sight of activities through the value chain.

What is your vision of how the insurance sector will align to the changing business landscape? I see the market continuing to innovate and adapt to meet changing customer needs and external pressures. The key themes will be improving distribution efficiency, improving customer centricity and the delivery of long term underwriting discipline.

What do you see as the main challenges in the market going forward? How can business overcome them? The clear challenge I see is the need to address the structural imbalance between distributors and manufacturers, and the concentration of distribution power that has developed within the market. This has been driven by the ability of distributors to divert business into their own MGAs whereby manufacturers face challenges in adopting similar practices. This imbalance has real threats for the long term development of our industry.

Whom do you see as the main visionaries in the insurance market right now? Those pushing the technological boundaries to deliver what customers need in today’s hectic society, and increasing the efficiencies in what many see as an old-fashioned industry. Those involved in aggregation fall firmly into this category as do many intermediaries such as personal lines brokers which have evolved their business models to respond to market changes particularly the increasing prevalence of online purchasing.

What are the key business issues that the insurance leaders need to understand today to drive their businesses? I have a firm view that leaders need to bring service back to the top of the agenda within the industry. I am the first to admit that for too long this has taken a back seat. As our customers continue to become more sophisticated and mobile we need to meet their needs head on.