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A new suitor for AXA

Friday, November 26th 2010, 8:10AM 7 Comments

by Philip Macalister

It must be tough at AXA. It’s been year a long courtship (with little love or passion) and now its the regulators who have decided AMP is a better suitor for the business, not BNZ’s parent NAB. (I always thought parents were meant to sort out arranged marriages not the authorities). Trying to make sense of this long-going affair is difficult, but here’s my take on it. There seems to be some logic in AMP wanting AXA in Australia, however the desire to own AXA in New Zealand is less obvious. Our talks with lots of people suggest NAB (BNZ) would be a better option and that there would be cultural and personnel clashes. Considering both organisations are strong in the life insurance area it’s worth thinking about what happens there. AMP runs pretty much a tied distribution force, while AXA let it’s guys loose years ago. They, I assume, could have dealt with AMP if they wanted, but have chosen not to. Therefore it seems unlikely these advisers will look to be AMP men in the future as they have already said no to the company. Instead they will look to work with other life companies if the deal proceeds. And just to add another interesting layer to the adviser side of the equation we are hearing stories that AMP advisers are unhappy with some of the manager management in the company, and are voting against various parties in that organisation, including one who was involved with AXA and its funds management acquisition. I reckon the best solution is that there is a management buyout of AXA in New Zealand. Maybe the team there can do some sort of deal with organisations like the NZ Super Fund or Lloyd Morrison to get out of the takeover and remain as a competitor in the market. No doubt AMP wouldn’t be adverse to a bit of quick cash when the deal is done to allow it to focus on the Australian assets. It means we get another New Zealand owned financial services company and advisers don’t lose of the of choice they have in the market at the moment. That means we keep one of the carriers and it is one which is independent of these big organisations/
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Comments from our readers

On 26 November 2010 at 9:36 am John said:
As you've mentioned Phil if this deal does proceed I am sure many AXA advisers will simply look to work with other life companies instead. Given the fact that AMP treat advisers like employees I am sure many at AXA will not want to be under that sort of management style. There will indeed as you point out be a clash of cultures! I don't know of any existing AMP adviser who is entirely happy at present.
On 26 November 2010 at 2:06 pm Barry Milner said:
Phil, damn these spell checks, whatever happened to proof reading? I'm sure it is just a "Freudian slip when you say "AXA let its guys lose years ago", AXA certainly did let them loose some time back, but they may very well lose if this AMP takeover proceeds as planned.
On 26 November 2010 at 5:20 pm Bob said:
AMP is an abonimation- but nothing less expected when an ex-Banker heads up the agency force with no understanding of our industry and zero people skills. No wonder AMP advisers are moving on. AXA advisers will not tolerate it-do the MBO AXA, advisers will support you.
On 27 November 2010 at 7:32 am Independent Observer said:
Whether it’s AMP, AXA, ING or any other institution - one thing is for sure: IFAs will soon need to decide whether they wish to be institutionally aligned or remain independent.

My bet is that 80% of IFAs will be forced to swallow their pride (and compromise many of their principles) and align themselves with institutions. This is not neither good nor bad - although it will require those advisers to prepare themselves for life under a new master. Ultimately the person who pays your bills, will determine what you do… translating into institutional-advisers selling only those products & services that contribute to their master’s wealth.

For those that are still struggling with the intention of my ramble: the ownership of AXA (AMP, MBO or otherwise) will not necessarily solve the above issues. In fact it may exacerbate them further if more demanding shareholders become involved.
On 30 November 2010 at 12:58 pm Cynical said:
I am surprised the parent company (AMP) can be bothered with NZ anyway, their capital is better employed in Aus. There appears to be much carnage and discontent inside AMP currently, distribution appears souless and muddled. Market trust is low, AXA advisers appear fearful... this is a shame and i do not believe the current management can provide the trust and confidence required to make this MA work!!
On 1 December 2010 at 1:43 pm Ralph said:
Poor old AXA (National Mutual really).Have always felt second best to AMP over a 100+ years and with Gil Hoskins at the helm nearly took National Mutual to their knees as well as offering handcuffs to greedy agents throughout Australasia in the 80's.Things maybe not be 100% at AMP right at this moment but all companies have their moments.
Its now payback time for AMP!
On 2 December 2010 at 8:34 am Cynical said:
Ralph, there would be no coporate memory at AMP of these times, the new bankers coming into the business would not even no of insurance history here in NZ, That aside, the challenge for AMP and all banks is "TRUST and CONFIDENCE!! most of us are cynical about banks and what they say or what they present and also insurance companies as suppliers. Unfortunately we have to use them. AMP has many ex bankers inside there building now its frightening. They think they know how to capture "share of mind". Talk of market share and who has the biggest .... seems to be the obsession. Give us reasons to trust and reasons to have confidence and we may form a healthy trade partnership... otherwise look forward to natural attrition. We could write this stuff all day and it wouldnt matter, water will find its own level.
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