’I’m confident that she is an excellent fit for Axa,’ says chief executive

Axa Health has appointed Heather Smith as its new chief executive, a statement released yesterday (14 September 2023) said.

Smith, who is currently the managing director of retail at Allianz, will take up her new role in January 2024 and succeed Matt Vardy.

Vardy had been carrying out the role on an interim basis since the departure of Tracy Garrad in March 2023.

“I’m really excited to have been given the opportunity to take up the role of chief executive of Axa Health and continue the excellent work being delivered by such a forward-thinking business,” Smith said.

“I hope to be able to build on these successes and work with the team to continue to grow the business together.”


Prior to Allianz, Smith spent 10 years at Aviva, working in roles across both life and general insurance sectors.

She also spent 13 years at Aviva Health in a number of roles that included responsibility for affinity partnerships, marketing and sales.

Heather Smith

Heather Smith

At Allianz, Smith was responsible for providing personal lines insurance for 3.7m customers across all major distribution channels.

“Heather is a strong and authentic leader who has a wealth of experience developing high performing teams and delivering the best outcomes for customers in both health and insurance businesses,” Tara Foley, chief executive of Axa UK and Ireland, said.

“I’m confident that she is an excellent fit for Axa and is the right person to lead health through the important next stage of strategy delivery.”

Foley also paid tribute to Vardy, saying he had done a “tremendous job as interim chief executive”.

“Matt is passionate about our health business and will be a great support to Heather when she takes up the role,” she added.