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Consumer brands critical post-financial crisis, says Axa’s Mariée

Axa UK group marketing director Olivier Mariée says consumer brands are critical to rebuilding trust in the financial services industry.

Mariée, who spent time in Japan during its lost decade in the nineties, says problems surrounding the financial crisis hinged on complexity and products that were misunderstood by consumers.

He acknowledges that consumers behave differently but says a number of future impacts on the UK financial services landscape can be foreseen from Japan’s experience.

He says: “In Japan, we’re talking about around 15,000 bn euros in savings. Today around 55 per cent of that is still in short-term deposit accounts. I think that’s what we are now seeing in the UK. When you look at what is happened over the last 18 months, the question for the customer is what is the real value, when should I buy and also what is safe.”

Mariée says UK insurance and financial services firms have woken up to the power of the consumer brand as a driver of change in the market.

He says: “In this environment, building trust, simplicity and transparency is absolutely critical. You need to have a consumer brand where the customer knows what to expect.

“The pension issue will not disappear and is going to be worse and we have to be better prepared. The question is how to transfer short-term savings into long-term for pensions. That is one of the challenges we have to deal with in the industry.

“If people think we are going to go back to where we were, I think they’re wrong.”

Mariée says Axa is working hard to implement its clear communication initative to minimise jargon in client documentation.

He says: “We are not there yet, we haven’t reviewed or changed all our documents but the objective is to avoid jargon, acronym and use language that people really understand. It’s a massive task but we have to go through that.

“The RDR will help structure the mind of the customer about what he or she is buying and what to expect. If we look to the past, we were not doing what we should have been doing in this area, it’s a problem of the industry.”

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