Paul Bennett, Global Brand Director, AXA
How has your brand reacted to the events of 2020? Is there anything you would call out that the brand has done that exemplifies Axa’s approach to growing its brand(s)?
In line with our new purpose ‘act for human progress to by protecting what matters’ AXA has played a brand-leading role in the sanitary and economic crisis related to COVID-19.
First of all, AXA has made contributions to various national and industry solidarity funds which were used to support healthcare professionals, affected companies and recovery efforts. In France, AXA is the leading contributor to the €400m insurance industry solidarity initiative. In addition, AXA has committed to finance medical supplies, including two million masks for French medical workers and equipment for intensive care units in Italy.
In the spirit of our brand promise ‘Know You Can’, our 160,000 employees and partners have been available and fully operational from the start of the crisis to ensure full business continuity and meet our clients’ needs.
Exceptional measures have been implemented to support business customers, particularly SMEs, including premium freezes and, in some circumstances, refunds of premiums. In several countries, the Group has announced it will continue to insure businesses even in the event of late payment due to the pandemic, for the duration of the containment period.
In response to the health emergency, AXA has committed to directly helping employees and clients, while supporting medical actions in the regions in which it operates. AXA has broadly leveraged its medical networks and teleconsulting services to contribute to the healthcare effort. AXA has also provided extended protection to frontline medical workers in some of the most-affected countries.
How are your customers’ and consumers’ needs changing, and how is AXA responding?
Customers’ expectations are changing, and are more and more set on great (digital) experiences. Historically, customers were happy with a good product and fair pricing. Now, expectations have been set by the likes of leading digital and retail brands, so they expect much more: personalized interactions, empathetic service and seamless connections across channels. We are putting a greater focus on building seamless digital journeys.
The role of brand is also changing – purpose now leads the way. In the era of conscious capitalism, investors, employees and customers expect clarity around what you stand for as an organisation, and expect to see that reflected not just in what you say but what you do. This is why we are putting our new purpose to the fore and being clearer about the actions we are taking for customers and society.
What have been the biggest lessons from 2020, and what will you be taking forward into 2021?
This crisis has revealed a transformation in the nature of the major risks we face. They are now more complex, more global and more interrelated. These are fundamental trends at the heart of the Group’s strategy and to which AXA is devoting a central part of its 2019 Future Risks Report.
Cyber risks, climate change, pandemics… new risks require different modes of action and increased cooperation between businesses and governments. This is why AXA has called for the creation of a public-private insurance mechanism against pandemics, which is currently under discussion. This is also the meaning of CEO Thomas Buberl’s commitment at the head of the World Economic Forum’s CEO Action Group for the implementation of the European Green Deal.
What this crisis has also shown us is the extent to which these new risks can affect our most precious assets: our health, our freedom to move around or to work. To face up to this new context in the next months and years, we will need players capable of financing development, supporting progress and protecting everyone. This goes back to the very mission of insurance. With the Covid-19 crisis, AXA’s raison d’être, which we have just unveiled, takes on its full meaning: ‘Act for human progress by protecting what matters’.
Has the last 12 months reaffirmed or changed your view on how brands need to exist and operate, both now and in the future?
The 2020 COVID-19 outbreak has reaffirmed the critical role we can have in bringing meaningful value to customers and society. In this context, AXA has reaffirmed its strategy to be a true partner with exceptional measures around health and business both in insurance and reassurance.
In a very short-notice, agile way we put in place an internal taskforce that coordinated and built targeted messages in key markets such as France ,with Relance Pro, and Italy, with Insieme.
This exceptional situation proved to us that the evolution of the AXA brand platform is putting AXA in the right position to be a global brand, close to what matters for its customers.
What’s next for the AXA brand – where will you be focusing to ensure growth and success?
We will continue to establish our ‘Know You Can’ platform globally, which is proving a very strong way to emotionally connect with consumers and employees.
In order to continue our journey to be a trusted partner brand we will focus more on leveraging brand partnerships in order to gain the required access and frequency in people’s lives.
Continuing our strategic focus on Health, Protection and Business will offer us the opportunity to bring value outside of the traditional buy/claim cycle.