FA Service Awards, Outstanding Achievement: Axa

This year’s outstanding achievement award winner has listened to its customers, according to Axa Wealth chief executive Mike Kellard, but he also admitted there was room for further improvement for the business in the way it engaged with the customer.

Axa Wealth, in addition to its Elevate platform and multi-manager provider Architas, all appeared within Financial Adviser’s five-star ranked providers this year in the life and pensions and investment categories, a feat which Mr Kellard put down to a commitment to improve service and to make ongoing technological advances to its client proposition.

Architas has created an RDR-ready suite of investment solutions with three ranges of multi-manager funds allowing the adviser to choose between active, passive or blended multi-asset portfolios in a range of risk profiles.

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Axa Wealth’s focus has been on ensuring it fulfilled its RDR commitments and to make it easier to do business with the company. Mr Kellard said “We are moving much more towards becoming a digitally positioned business, and to facilitate this we have been recruiting staff across the whole company with digital and marketing backgrounds to push this change forward.

“The changes in our industry are not just down to restructuring how we sell our products, it’s also about infrastructure and marketing and bringing in a different viewpoint into the business, often from outside the financial services industry.

“We want our online propositions to be as effective as the likes of Amazon, and to have simple and easy to access functionality. By 2013 Axa will be very much a different type of company. We sold our legacy book a couple of years ago. We’re now less of an old-world life company and more of a digitally focused wealth management firm.”

On the RDR, Mr Kellard added: “We had a certain advantage due to the fact that as a business we were not reliant on commission. Winterthur’s proposition was fee-based more than 12 years ago, and Axa Wealth’s economic model was built on this fee-based structure. But we have obviously had to make changes on the technical side of our service proposition to comply with the RDR proposals.

“The pressure came more from making sure the service proposition was compliant, and how we engaged with our customer base in assisting them in their preparations.”

Axa Wealth have been very active in offering RDR training and workshops to help advisers make the transition to the new regulatory environment. Consultants from the Axa Wealth Professional Edge team will have run more than 2500 hours of seminars and workshops by the end of the year, with Mr Kellard stating: “We have listened a lot more to the advisers about what they need, rather than tell them what to do as part of their RDR preparations.

“All of our consultants are accredited by the Chartered Insurance Institute and qualified to chartered level themselves, so they know what the advisers have to go through. Our seminars and workshops also give the opportunity for advisers to claim 15 CPD credits, forming part of the structured CPD required under the new RDR regulations.”