Private Equity suitors in the frame for former AXA chief.

Former AXA insurance chief executive Peter Hubbard is understood to be talking to a number of banks and private equity houses about a possible new role in the industry.

Hubbard’s sudden departure from AXA last month shocked the market, but senior market sources have recently linked him to private equity firms including Candover and 3i.

Hubbard refused to comment on the speculation. However, a senior market source said he was looking for a quick return to the insurance market as soon as his gardening notice was completed. The source said: “One scenario for Peter is that he could be the public face or front-line deal maker for a private equity company dominant in the market. Candover would be the perfect choice.”

The private equity world has shown a renewed interest in the insurance market as demonstrated by 3i’s purchase of stakes in Jelf and Hyperion. The insurance market has welcomed the appetite of private equity at a time of restricted lending by banks, but these firms have also been accused of lacking a certain expertise in the market.

As a result, Hubbard’s experience could be useful to a private equity firm. His departure from AXA is still somewhat shrouded in mystery but some have questioned whether it could be linked to recent criticisms over broker service and poor growth in commercial business.

Those close to Hubbard, however, are quick to point out that after seven years at the helm, the man responsible for patching up AXA’s numerous financial leaks when he came on board in 2001 was ready for a change.