’We continuously monitor the economic environment,’ says chief executive
Axa UK and Ireland chief executive Tara Foley believes her firm’s combined operating ratio (COR) will improve in 2024 as she revealed that inflation is starting to drop.
As reported in Insurance Times’ Top 50 Insurers rankings, Axa saw its COR rise from 97.6% in 2021 to 101.1% to 2022 despite improving its gross written premium (GWP) by 7% year-on-year to £5.6bn.
Foley says inflationary pressure “continues to have an impact across all aspects of the insurance sector”, including pricing and claims, repairs and procurement.
“It’s not just our industry that’s being affected of course and it’s important for us to be mindful that these collective factors are also having a huge impact on our customers, both financially and from a wellbeing perspective,” she adds.
Inflation started to bite in 2022 and was exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine and knock-on effects on energy markets.
This has affected several lines of business, including both motor and property, with premiums rising across the industry as costs increase, while there have also been delays in the repair and supply chains.
”While claims inflation has affected both motor and property insurance throughout 2023, supply chain challenges have also caused issues with motor claims and adverse weather conditions alongside increases in the price of labour and building materials have led to a rise in property claims costs,” Foley says.
”Proactive communication continues to be essential to inform our customers and help them understand the macroeconomic factors impacting some services.
“Thankfully, the time lag for motor parts is starting to improve and we are beginning to see a reduction in inflation which, if it continues, should gradually have a positive impact on COR.
”We continuously monitor the economic environment and constantly look at ways to provide our customers with financial support and guidance to ensure they can get the right products and services for their needs.”
Meanwhile, Foley says that technology will be a major part of the insurer’s plans going into 2024.
A shift to more digital solutions across the industry has been driven by the Covid-19 pandemic having increased the need for more firms to become digitised.
“As a business, we have been on a digital transformation journey and this will continue in 2024,” Foley said.
“We are constantly reviewing our products and services to ensure they meet the needs and expectations of our customers in the digital age while still retaining the personal service that is so important.”
She adds that development of “new, innovative modular products, online offerings and personalisation” are all part of this transformation to meet customers’ evolving needs.
She highlighted Axa’s new digital-only insurance brand Moja as an example, with Foley saying that this ”is fully self-serving and ensures customers have access to everything they need at their fingertips”.
”Customers can also choose their level of cover to suit their needs and budgets and make changes to their policy online,” she adds.
Foley adds that increased investment in data and analytics will support the insurers’ digital transformation and ensure it can provide the most bespoke and flexible products and services.
“Our people are central to the success of our business and we recognise the need to recruit and retain a diverse mix of talent,” she says.
”We will continue to invest in giving them the training, skills and resources they need to support us on our transformation journey.”
Foley spoke to Insurance Times following a number of success for Axa during 2023.
For example, the insurer was named as one of The Times’ Top 50 Employers for Women, while in July, it achieved the Age-Aware Accredited Employer status from 55/Redefined, an employer focused organisation supporting businesses on age inclusivity.
“The new accreditation demonstrates our ongoing commitment to implementing age-inclusive policies and is testament to the company’s belief that employees should be able to progress whatever their background, heritage, lifestyle or life stage,” Foley says.
This year also saw Axa secure the top spot in the Top 50 Insurers rankings.
Foley says that being ranked number one for the third consecutive year “is testament to the fantastic efforts of our people amid what has been a very challenging trading environment”.
”However, we haven’t been alone in this and the wider industry continues to face similar challenges ahead of what unfortunately looks like another uncertain year,” she adds.
“Serving our customers remains our number one priority and as their requirements evolve it’s vital for us to remain agile and continuously innovate in order to meet their needs and exceed their expectations.”