One of the unions representing AXA workers made redundant in the recent cutbacks was negotiating a affinity deal with AXA before the insurer announced the cuts.

Insurance Times has learned that MSF had invited financial services companies to tender for a financial counselling package that would help its 400,000 members.

MSF was also seeking a deal to provide cheaper motor and warranty cover. AXA won the contract just as it announced it would be cutting 2,000 jobs across the country. MSF has 1,000 members at AXA, but it is not known how many of these have been made redundant.

Nor is it known whether AXA told MSF during the negotiations that it was about to make many MSF members redundant.

Any apparent conflict of interest on MSF's part was denied by both parties.

“We are offering business to AXA, or through them, at the best possible rates to our membership,” said MSF's Richard O'Brien.

He added that there had never been a rift caused by the way AXA had handled its redundancy programme. “There are some companies that have treated staff very arbitrarily, but AXA has done everything it can to limit numbers of redundancies where possible.”

An AXA spokesman said: “MSF needs to provide the best products for its members, and feels that AXA can help do that. To outside observers it may seem quirky, but there is nothing unusual in the deal.” Hugh Jones-Glass, a regional officer for MSF, said AXA was no different from other insurers which had announced redundancies. “Is that a reason for not doing business with themNULL AXA has made its redundancy decisions in partnership with MSF. We have been involved all the way.

“We have never been critical of the way AXA handled redundancies.

“On the contrary, we would hold them up as an example of how it should be done.”