As the flurry of insurers announcing their financial results for the full year 2019 continues, headlines are generally stolen by whether or not profits have surged or slumped. However, in the case of AXA Group, the insurance giant managed to steal its own thunder with the announcement of a new CEO for one of its most high-profile units.
Scott Gunter, previously a senior vice president at Chubb Group and president of its North America commercial insurance division, has been named the new CEO of AXA XL. He will step into the role held by Greg Hendrick, who the insurer noted had decided to “pursue opportunities outside the group.”
“I am proud of the work done together with our colleagues in creating the new AXA XL division,” Hendrick said. “As I move on, I am convinced that the expertise, ability to innovate and customer focus which are at the heart of our DNA will be key assets in ensuring the continued success of this great platform.”
The changes are effective immediately, with Thomas Buberl, AXA’s group CEO thanking Hendrick for his leadership in managing the integration of XL, while also highlighting Gunter’s potential in the role.
“I am very happy that Scott is joining AXA,” Buberl said. “Scott brings over 30 years of experience, a strong track record in commercial insurance, underwriting and profound knowledge of the North American market. I am convinced that his deep experience and leadership skills coupled with the highly professional and engaged teams of AXA XL, will be a winning combination to drive the next phase of AXA XL’s development.”
So, what about those group results?
The announcement of the appointment of Gunter certainly wasn’t a case of diverting attention away from bad news – because the group enjoyed a series of positives including an increase in gross revenues (up to 103,502 million euros from 102,874 million euros a year earlier), alongside a 75% jump in net income – standing at 3,857 million euros, representing an increase from 2,140 million euros.
“In 2019, the group achieved a 5% increase in underlying earnings per share, with high technical profitability across all our businesses,” said Buberl. “Based on the strong operational performance and the strength of AXA’s balance sheet, the board of directors is proposing a dividend of euro 1.43 per share, an increase of 7% from last year, which corresponds to a payout ratio of 52%.”
“The group achieved a significant milestone in 2019 in its strategy to shift its profile away from financial markets and towards technical risk, by fully exiting the US Life & Savings market and integrating the XL Group, and at the same time reducing its debt gearing ratio,” he added. “At AXA XL, impacted again by adverse claims experience in 2019, we are recording strong price increases and taking further steps to reduce volatility.”
Overall, its property and casualty combined ratio was 96.4%, an improvement of 0.6%, while its protection combined ratio saw a 0.7% improvement to 93.2%. Health combined ratio was up 0.1% to 94.1%.
Looking at the XL business, P&C revenues climbed 18% to 9.1 billion euros, while specialty insurance revenues increased 6% to 4.9 billion euros. Reinsurance revenues also climbed 2% to 4.5 billion euros.