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Paul Evans

Axa Sun Life’s chief executive has brought the firm’s protection products to the market bang on time and he hopes to provide brokers with flexibility but he believes that multi-ties are inevitable.

Axa Sun Life chief executive Paul Evans says he doesn’t quite know how he became chief executive of the company, describing it as “something that just happened”.

After spending 13 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers/ Coopers & Lybrand straight out of university, he joined Axa UK in 2000 and became Axa Sun Life chief executive in May 2003.

Evans has a lot to be happy about at the moment. Axa is launching its protection proposition to the intermediary market under the name Axa Protection Account. He is most proud that they have been able to deliver on time. “A year ago, I said the launch date would be November 19, 2004 and we have delivered. I am really happy with that.”

He says he wanted the protection proposition to be part of a “joined-up process”, where brokers can access information in a flexible manner, provide multi-quotes when necessary and adapt information according to changes in a client’s circumstances. As well as traditional protection products such as life, critical illness, accident and sickness and income protection, the menu will also provide access to household buildings and contents insurance.

Evans is particularly proud of the fact Axa is able, due to its financial strength, to offer a choice of guaranteed or reviewable rates on the CII, IP, and life products. “We got together with our reinsurers and were determined to be able to offer both guaranteed and reviewable but we have not gone for price play and a single product. We have gone for the proposition.”

The products will initially be offered through distribution partners Bankhall, Millfield, Tenet and LifeSearch and, from January 2005, Britannia Building Society. Evans says the relationship with Britannia is extremely exciting. “It is uncanny how densely aligned our organisations are and the same values we hold.” Evans confirms that Axa is looking at further bancassurance partnerships but cannot confirm the companies involved yet.

Although Evans is aware of the constant reports of the UK “protection gap” he says the spectrum of risk has fallen outside the obvious consumer area. “The way to address this is to offer cover that is more linked to individual needs.”

He believes this can be achieved through the sophisticated point-of-sale system offered by the protection account. A self-confessed computer game fan, he is very keen on Axa’s online sales proposition. The system offers a cover calculator and multi-quote function as well as full integration with mortgage platforms such as Trigold to remove the need to re-key data from mortgage to protection application. But again, the emph-asis is on flexibility.

“We wanted to offer brokers options. If they do not want to use the online application, then paper applications and offline CD applications are options too.”

The evolution of Axa is extremely important to Evans. “Axa has been described as a sleeping giant but IFAs want to do business with us again. People are starting to see and talk about Axa.”

He is very proud of the staff who have, in his words, “picked up the vision to be the easiest to deal with.” He says: “IFAs have woken up to the organisation and the relationship with them has opened up enormously.”

Evans is more than aware that the relationship with IFAs is set to change again in 2005. But he does not think that the change will be immediate. Last year, he thought that depolarisation would enter the financial playing field with a bang but now he says, after talking with people in the market, depolarisation will not initially result in a significantly changed environment.

“I believe that IFAs will not rush into multi-tie. A multi-tied environment is an inevitability within the next two to three years. IFAs who use panels will eventually come to see a lower compliance risk by multi-tying but they need to be convinced why they should give up their independence. It has got to look different to what is already available.”

He believes that Axa will approach the changing environment by looking at individual business models, understanding what brokers want to achieve from these models and deciding what is the best path for them from this.

What he hopes to provide for brokers is flexibility. “We need to be able to build enough flexibility into the proposition. For example, if you want a single-tied arm, it can be done.”

Another area where Evans hopes to see further development is in the pension sector. He believes that pension simplification, although welcome, probably has not gone far enough. He considers that the main area for development must be in group pension schemes.

“Employers need to help to encourage consumers and help them understand group pensions. We will need flexibility in future advice regimes. The captive audience is employee-based. It is up to us to work towards this key area.”

As well as an optimistic faith in the future of pensions, he still thinks there is a place for with-profits despite the poor press it has received. “Perhaps there need to be better modelling tools for IFAs, such as what-if tools. I don’t know. But the product itself is sound.”

Date of birth: 1965

Lives: Cheltenham

Education: BSc Mathematics,Imperial College, LondonCareer: Pricewater-houseCoopers/Coopers & Lybrand, 1986-1999, director; Axa UK 2000-2002, group finance director; Axa Sun Life, 2003, chief executive

Life ambition: “To spend more time watching my children grow up.”

Career ambition:”I’m not sure. I’m staggered I’m chief executive of Axa Sun Life.”

Likes: Salad cream, Queen (the band)

Dislikes: Sprouts

Hero: Martin Luther King

Drives: BMW 525 SEi

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