AXA boss pledges commitment to UK general insurance plans

AXA Insurance chief executive Philippe Maso has insisted that AXA remains committed to its general insurance business in the UK – and that he plans to stay in post – as it enters talks to sell parts of its life business to Resolution.

Maso said that the deal did not herald further divestments, saying AXA would stay in the UK and would keep hold of its broking business Bluefin.

He also scotched rumours that he could be on the move, telling Insurance Times: “I have been two years in this role. In two years you don’t harvest the fruits of your action. I’m not the sort of guy who moves in the middle of a race: I have no intention to move anywhere. I’m in, and it’s important that the market knows it.”

Maso could not comment on the details of the deal with Resolution, but said it was driven by wider market conditions and AXA’s decision to focus on its wealth management business, which it plans to retain while selling its pension, protection and savings businesses.

The deal, which will be hammered out over the next few weeks, would value the businesses at around 80% of their £3.5bn book value.

“These are businesses where you need to have scale. You are obliged to make further acquisitions to get scales of economy,” he said. “If you don’t have the appetite for that, it makes sense to get out. Many big life players in the life market could make exactly the same reasoning.”

He said the search for a replacement for commercial boss Ant Middle, who has left to join Aviva, was under way. “Ant did a great job. He probably could have – should have – finished what he started to do with me, but he decided that it was the right choice for him, and I fully support that and wish him well.

“Now I have the opportunity to completely reconsider who should do that job, and we have many options. I am going to take the time to calmly consider – I am not going to rush that.”

Maso added that he would prefer an internal appointment and there were “four or five” strong candidates.