AXA Looks to Digital, and Alibaba, To Stimulate Brand Growth



AXA, France’s biggest insurer, reported that its first-half 2016 profit rose 4 percent as increased earnings from life and health insurance helped offset higher claims from natural catastrophes.

Europe’s second-largest insurer, which turned 30 last year and was the first global insurance brand on Interbrand’s Best Global Brands table, is pivoting to new initiatives that are meant to light a fire under growth in a business that remains challenged worldwide.

Thomas Buberl, AXA’s new CEO as of Sept. 1st, has pledged that the company is working to streamline costs to concentrate on improving profits while it also is establishing new growth initiatives. These include focusing on selective growth in product that don’t require large amounts of regulatory capital, as well as developing digital product offerings to reach new customers.

He is also focused on digital transformation, so another significant new growth strategy is the brand’s partnership with Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, which AXA just announced. As part of the deal, its insurance services will be offered on Alibaba’s business-to-business marketplaces for small and medium-sized firms.

According to Fortune, AXA also plans to market warranty and online payment protection on Alibaba’s international site, while Ant Financial, the Alibaba affiliate that owns China’s biggest online payments system, will start offering Axa travel insurance for Chinese tourists and their 120 million annual international trips.

For Alibaba, the deal with AXA could reassure its small but growing number of international customers who are concerned about fake products and brand copies flooding Alibaba’s biggest market at home, AXA’s products for extended warranties may coax more customers into trying the platform, the publication said.

As AXA pointed out in a press release last October noting its Best Global Brands achievement, it is well on its way as “an innovative brand at the heart of digital transformation“:

In 2015, AXA sustainably strengthened its innovation ecosystem, particularly in Asia. AXA Lab, already present in San Francisco, was set up in Shanghai; the Data Innovation Lab, active in Paris since 2014, arrived in Singapore; and AXA Strategic Ventures, created in February and already present in San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, Zurich and Berlin, opened a new operation in Hong Kong. Furthermore, 2015 saw the creation of Kamet, a technology innovation incubator at the service of insurance customers.

After having established partnerships in 2014 with Internet giants LinkedIn and Facebook, AXA further pursued its initiatives in the digital domain. New agreements were signed in 2015, most notably with BlaBlaCar, the European leader in ridesharing, to provide insurance cover for BlaBlaCar members.

A responsible brand, working to protect everyone

In 2015, the Group reported its best-ever score on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), with a score of 83 out of 100. With this score, AXA is positioned among the leading enterprises worldwide in terms of corporate responsibility (CR).

Furthering its active commitment to the environment, AXA participated in CR Week 2015Climate Finance Day and COP21. Henri de Castries has already announced his intention to take the Group out of all carbon-related investments by the end of 2015.
The AXA Research Fund was particularly dynamic in 2015, allocating €15 million in 2015 to 44 new research projects on risks, in 19 countries. At the same time, AXA established a partnership with IFC-Banque Mondiale for parametric insurance, and is expanding its initiatives in micro-insurance.

A brand that sticks close to its customers and its employees

The digitalization of AXA services also continued in 2015, with the launch of the HealthU and AXA Drive Coach applications. Start-in, AXA’s participative innovation program, has already generated several innovative prototypes to better serve AXA customers. Two of these services will be brought to market in 2015, followed by four more in 2016.

The Corporate Online Open Course (COOC) entitled “Do you speak Digital?” was developed by the AXA Digital Academy, with the goal of familiarizing all Group employees with the digital domain.