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Interview with Henri de Castries

Henri de Castries

The insurer's mission is not simply to repair the consequences of risks, which may have arisen, but to understand these risks, analyse them and prevent them.

Henri de Castries Président-Directeur Général

In 2013, the AXA Group ran an international advertising campaign called "Born to protect". What does that say about the insurance business?

An insurer's role is not just to repair damage after it has occurred, but first of all to understand, analyze and prevent risks. So protection is a fundamental component of the insurance business. It begins by identifying the risks, continues by taking measures to prevent them and then, if problems still arise, ends by repairing the damage. When we prevent risks, we are doing our job properly. And if problems do arise, our role is not only to provide our customers with the best technical or medical solutions to repair or compensate for the damage, but also to give them the close relationship, advice and support they need. So it's a job that's both very technical and very human, and it's that, I think, that is the basis for its price and value and is one of the reasons that many of our employees are so proud to work for the company.

Should we wish for a risk-free society?

No definitely not. A risk-free society is one that no longer grows, no longer evolves, no longer innovates. So what we should wish for is a society that doesn't avoid risk, but one in which risk-taking is an educated process. You can't protect unless you are strong yourself.

Did 2013 confirm the Group's robustness?

Yes, I believe it did.


Because we combined profitable growth with financial strength. Growth, because we made progress in all our three core businesses. Profitable, because our margins improved. Our technical ratios improved in P&C and our margins progressed in health and protection, as well as savings and asset management. And finally financial strength, because based on traditional solvency measures, we stand at more than twice the standard requirement for risk coverage. In parallel, our gearing ratio continued to decline. So, in short, a solid year with profitable growth and financial strength.

When we look at how the world is changing, what is the main strategic challenge for a group like AXA?

The strategic challenge for us is to maintain the leadership we have established while transforming the way we do business. Our raison d'être will not change, but the way we do the job will evolve profoundly. We will continue to protect people but in very different ways. From this point of view, what's happening now in big data, the Internet and digital technology is transforming our businesses by offering us some quite fascinating opportunities to improve our expertise and our services, the likes of which have probably never been seen before in the history of our business.

One last question to wrap up. Why AXA?

Why AXA? Because AXA tries to take a positive view of the changing world. We try to offer everybody a little more, to give our employees a reason to believe in the Group's future, a reason to believe in their own personal development while serving the Group, because we're a Group that was able to anticipate these changes.

Why AXA for our customers?

Because it's the leading global brand, and that didn’t happen by chance. For our shareholders, it's the knowledge that they are investing in a company that works for the common good, that will manage their investment responsibly and intelligently. For our external stakeholders, it's seeing the development of a company with a strong desire to take part in the debates that are important to our societies. AXA believes that being a responsible corporate citizen means taking part in these debates, providing insights in the interests of society as a whole, for the common good and the general interest. It is important for businesses to do this, it's important for us to do it, because it's what makes our democracies live.

What kind
of protector are you ?

We all try to protect our loved ones and ourselves
as best we can. Each one of us has the instinct to protect
our health, our property, our environment.
Take this interactive test to find out
what kind of protector you are.

A test devised by AXA


Select the photo that best reflects
your personal concerns.

A test devised by AXA





You are

Find out what other people think

A test devised by AXA

Your selection of photos

Protection means different things to different people.

Caring, committed, prudent or pragmatic, we all have a different idea of what protection means. Compare your profile with that of other people and find out which four photos were most often selected by participants.

  • Photo most frequently chosen by the pragmatic
  • Photo most frequently chosen by the committed
  • Photo most frequently chosen by the caring
  • Photo most frequently chosen by the prudent

Ambition AXA's Strategic goal
by 2015




  • Customer centricity

  • Culture of trust and achievement



    Allocate our resources in mature countries to drive
    the Group's growth and strengthen strategic segments.


    Gain agility to expand in fast-growing markets and buoyant segments and make strong progress in direct business.


    Control costs to achieve 1.7 billion euros of cost savings by 2015 and make the Group's size a competitive advantage.


  • 5-10% annual growth in underlying earnings per share (in euros per share)*

    • 2010
    • 2011
    • 2012
    • 2013
  • 24 billion euros of cumulative operating free cash flows over five years (in billions of euros)*

    • 2010
    • 2011
    • 2012
    • 2013
  • 13-15% adjusted return on equity in 2015* (adjusted ROE)

    • 2010
    • 2011
    • 2012
    • 2013
  • 23-25% debt ratio in 2015*

    • 2010
    • 2011
    • 2012
    • 2013

* Published basis

Key figures

profitable growth


insurance brand*

for the 5th consecutive year

* Interbrand ranking

Operations in





  • Revenue (in billions of euros, published)

  • Underlying earnings
    (in millions of euros, published)

  • Adjusted earnings (in millions of euros, published)

  • Net income (in millions of euros, published)

  • Economic solvency




Stock market trends


Geographic breakdown of business
(underlying earnings from insurance activities)

  • Northern, Central and Eastern Europe
  • France
  • United States
  • Mediterranean and Latin American region
  • Japan
  • Asia (excluding Japan)
  • International insurance
  • United Kingdom and Ireland
  • Direct P&C

Breakdown by business line (underlying earnings before tax, excluding holding companies)

  • Protection & Health
  • Property & Casualty and International Insurance
  • Savings and Asset Management (including general account business, unit-linked business and banking)

Revenues were up 2% on a comparable basis, driven by growth in all business lines.
Life & Savings and Property & Casualty both delivered 2% growth and Asset Management 8%.

Underlying earnings increased by 18%, reflecting a balanced business mix and healthy performance in our business lines. Life & Savings was driven by an improved underwriting margin in the United States, Property & Casualty by a decrease in the combined ratio coupled with volume growth, and Asset Management by growth in average assets under management.

Adjusted earnings increased by 20% thanks to growth in underlying earnings and an increase in realized net gains.

Net income rose by 14% on a comparable basis, driven by a good operating performance and active capital management.

2012 was restated retroactively for the amendment to the accounting standard on post-employment benefit obligations.

The Group's equity base remains strong, affected only by the technical impact of interest rate movements in 2013. The Group's solvency ratio remains very high, attesting to AXA's robustness. The debt ratio continues to fall, reaching 24% at December 31, 2013. It meant we had achieved our 25% target, so the Group announced a new target of 23-25% for 2015.

AXA shares rose sharply in the first half of 2013 and continued to progress well in the second half, ending the year up 51% and comfortably outperforming both the European insurance sector and the CAC 40.

The second half uptrend was supported by improved investor opinion on AXA's fundamentals, driven mainly by the successful implementation of its Ambition AXA strategic plan. The sharp rise was punctuated by a few short-lived price falls caused by macroeconomic factors, in particular the situation in Syria and the US fiscal crisis.

We delivered good results in 2013, with growth in revenues, underlying earnings and operating free cash flows. On this basis, coupled with a robust balance sheet, the Board of Directors is recommending a dividend of 0.81 euros per share, an increase of 13% compared with 2012.

Life & Savings

Life & Savings provides a broad spectrum of solutions to meet the financial protection needs of our customers, both for themselves and their loved ones. We operate in 30 countries and are the leading European life insurer by premium income.

Operations in30 countries


A balanced business mix (APE by business line)

  • Unit-linked
  • Mutual funds and other
  • Protection & health
  • General account

New business in 2013


Margin on new business


Protection and health benefits paid


Investment value

25bngrowth in the value of our customers' investments in our life insurance products

Strong growth in Life & Savings underlying earnings
(in millions of euros)informations

Trends in our business mix led to an improved margin on new business, both in mature and fast-growing markets. Our contribution to the Group's pre-tax underlying earnings increased by 13% to 3.8 billion euros. A breakdown of this contribution by business line confirms the key role played by our priority segments: protection and health (55%) and unit-linked business (28%), well ahead of general account business (17%). Underlying earnings were up in all countries.

2012 was restated retroactively for the amendment to the accounting standard on post-employment benefit obligations.

Property & Casualty

We enjoy leading positions, either built up over time in key markets such as France and western Europe or gained more recently in countries such as Mexico, Turkey and Singapore.

international insurer in Asia (excluding Japan and South Korea)

Diversified distribution channels
(2013 revenues by channel)

  • Agents
  • Brokers
  • Partnerships
  • Direct

Direct insurance

in Europe

Compensation in 2013

18 bn
Compensation paid in 2013

Motor claims settled in 2013


A balanced business mix
(2013 revenues by business type)

  • International insurance
  • Commercial
  • Retail

Asset Management

AXA has two asset management companies: AXA Investment Managers and AllianceBernstein. In 2013, net inflows totaled 8 billion euros.

Assets under management in 2013
(AXA Investment Managers, AllianceBernstein and other AXA companies)

Breakdown of assets under management

  • AXA Investment Managers
  • AllianceBernstein



to €3,461 million


70awards won in 2013 by AXA Investment Managers

Customer satisfaction



Underlying earnings
(in millions of euros)


Revenues rose by 8% in total. AXA Investment Managers delivered 10% growth and AllianceBernstein 7%, reflecting a good year for the asset management industry.

Overall customer satisfaction at AXA IM increased by 15% over one year, reflecting the actions taken to strengthen relations between the company and its customers. There was an improvement across all areas: customer relations (+10%), quality of service (+5%) and investment performance (+17%). In terms of investment performance, 77% of AXA IM's funds are in the top and second quartiles over a three-year rolling period.

Underlying earnings rose by 8%, driven by revenue growth coupled with good cost control. AXA Investment Managers contributed 54% to underlying earnings and AllianceBernstein 46%.

Corporate Responsibility

Our business is faced with rapidly changing economic and social needs as well as structural trends such as technological innovation, longer life expectancy and climate change, which can be difficult to evaluate. Our responsible practice helps us to build a stronger and safer society.

Dow Jones Sustainability Index


Breakdown of CO2 emissions

  • energy consumption
  • business travel
  • AXA car fleet
  • paper



410research projects supported in 30 countries

AXA-CARE partnership


750,000beneficiaries worldwide

Corporate responsibility week


56,000employee from 53 Group companies took part

AXA Hearts in Action


32,156employee volunteers in 2013

Corporate responsibility barometer

Inspired by the assessment systems used by the specialized extra-financial rating agencies, AXA has developed its own model for measuring corporate responsibility maturity and publishes its performance.

Group CR maturity level

  • Strategic phase
  • Target
  • 2010
  • 2011
  • 2012
  • 2013
  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016

Group performance by stakeholder

2012 Group weighted average

  • Shareholders
  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Environment
  • Suppliers
  • Community

Phase & note:

Defensive stage
Deny practices, outcomes or responsibilities
Compliance stage
Adopt a policy-based compliance approach as a cost of doing business
Managerial stage
Embed the societal issue in core management processes
Strategic stage
Integrate the societal issue into core business strategies
Civic stage
Promote broad industry participation in corporate responsibility

In 2013, AXA's overall score increased by 4 points and is well above the sector average of 48/100. The DJSI World and DJSI Europe are benchmarks for SRI fund managers and include best-in-class companies in terms of corporate responsibility.

AXA's CO2 emissions per FTE caused by energy consumption, paper and business travel (plane, train, car) fell by 7% year-on-year in 2013. We conduct an annual transport survey in 41 countries and 22 languages in order to estimate the levels of CO2 emissions caused by employees' travel to and from work and to raise employee awareness about alternative forms of transport.

Today's research is the foundation for tomorrow's protection. With that in mind, the Group set up the AXA Research Fund in 2007 to support and share knowledge about environmental, socio-economic and human risks. In 6 years, the Fund has provided 99 million euros of financial support to 367 research projects in 27 countries, based on a strict academic selection process. The Fund is now a recognized player in scientific philanthropy and partner to some of the world's largest academic institutions. AXA has renewed its commitment for 6 more years with an additional endowment of 100 million euros.

Since 2011 AXA has supported CARE, a humanitarian NGO which helps vulnerable populations prepare better for environmental risks. In 2014, the partnership was extended for another 3 years along the same lines. AXA is providing a further 2.3 million euros of financial support to continue existing actions and expand the program to new countries in Central and South America. To date, AXA-CARE has helped 750,000 people throughout the world

Our corporate responsibility practice has become a major factor in employee engagement. Their response to our "Corporate Responsibility Week" is more enthusiastic each year. In 2013, 56,000 employees from 53 Group companies took part. This enthusiasm is borne out by progress in the CR dimension of our Scope satisfaction survey. It reflects our substantial efforts to promote diversity, equal opportunity, a culture of trust and achievement and the professional and personal fulfillment of every employee.

In 2013, 32,156 employees volunteered to take part in outreach actions and the Group devoted 76,184 hours to support socially excluded people, protect the environment and promote education.

Corporate responsibility is at the heart of the Ambition AXA strategy and is part of a Group-wide approach. Each subsidiary's progress in CR maturity is measured and targets are set each year. It is more than just an assessment process; it is a genuine guide to CR strategy development, used by the subsidiaries to identify the measures needed to roll out their own local strategies. The common goal for everyone is to achieve a "strategic" maturity level by 2015. A dialogue and shared vision have gradually been forged between the Group and its subsidiaries. More than 70 CR factors are analyzed, including governance, risk management, compliance, customer relations management, environmental impact management, "green products," micro-insurance, human capital management, community involvement, philanthropy, supplier management, etc. Each factor is weighted and scored according to the subsidiary's performance, resulting in an aggregate global score out of 100. This rating positions each subsidiary at one of the five levels of CR maturity based on a defined scale. For even greater transparency, performance by stakeholder and all data obtained from the annual CR analysis are published on in the form of a "corporate responsibility barometer."


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