25 years of delivering quality service

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Paving the way

To mark 25 years of the Service Awards, Financial Adviser has devised the special 25th Anniversary Award, a one-off accolade recognising the provider which has consistently delivered the highest level of service as voted by our readers. The worthy winner is Axa Wealth.

The Service Awards archives reflect well on the Axa Group subsidiary, which has maintained a five-star rating in the investment category since 2009. It’s performance so far this year sees a continuation of this trend, while its popular Elevate platform, boasting around £10bn in funds under management, remains in this year’s top-rated category.

Growth has been a motif for Axa Wealth this year. Its Q3 2015 financial result revealed a 14 per cent increase in funds under management from £26.6bn in 2014 to £30.4bn.

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Meanwhile, Architas, Axa Wealth’s multi-manager arm, saw total assets increase 46 per cent from £13.3bn to £19.4bn.

Business growth and a distinct focus on customer service have been key drivers behind the company’s sterling performance in the awards, according to Axa Wealth chief executive Mike Kellard, who said: “Any good product is between six to 12 months away from being copied. What sets organisations apart is the way people deal with them and the way people are treated.

“I would be happy to pay a bit more for a service if the people who work in customer services are engaging and show empathy to customers’ concerns. You would be more inclined to forgive them when things go wrong.”

Over the past year, Axa Wealth has focused on enhancing its relationship with financial advisers by injecting a further £2m into its customer services, and has arranged an estimated 1,500 hours of training for members of the client-facing team, according to Mr Kellard.

He added: “We have launched a new Customer Services Academy which emphasises our position in wanting to enhance advisers’ experience with us. We are trying to recruit those who have a background working in retail to be a part of this.

“If you get customer service right it is harder for another organisation to copy. We have started from grassroots level and built it into our organisation.”

In recent times, the industry has had to adapt to significant movements in the financial landscape – not least the pensions reforms. In an effort to support advisers through the changes to pensions, Axa Wealth launched the LifePlanning Toolkit, an online service allowing advisers to explore clients’ financial goals, enhance tax efficiencies and plan cashflows, all in one place.

Mr Kellard said: “Since the pensions changes were announced last year, we’ve worked closely with consumers and advisers on what the new freedoms would mean for them to make sure we were fully ready to respond to their needs from day one of the new rules.”

Looking ahead, Axa Wealth aims to broaden its reach by increasing business channels as well as accelerating growth in Architas, Mr Kellard said.

Myron Jobson is a features writer at Financial Adviser