The future of newly-launched AXA Winterthur Wealth Management (AWWM) is secure thanks to AXA's extraordinary financial strength, according to its sales and marketing MD.
Amid the worst global economic turmoil since 1930, David Thompson says the capital muscle of the business, officially launched on October 16, stands it in good stead to survive future turbulence.
He says the business has been designed to provide a strong service to financial advisers, adding “we do not want to be seen as just another provider”.
The new proposition, designed to counter an industry shift which has seen life firms face intense competition from platforms, adviser networks and fund supermarkets, is also prepared for anything the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) can throw at it, Thompson adds.
“We wanted to make sure the underlying financial strength of the firm was strong and there is a big green tick in the box for AXA for that,” he says. “It is one of the strongest financial companies in the world, a top 15 Fortune 100 company.”
Thompson says there has been an assumption in the market, by advisers as well as customers, that companies are financially strong, a theory he says “has been blown out of the water”.
“We have seen the collapse of retail banks. The question now is not so much ‘should I invest in cash?’ as ‘where should I invest my cash?’ AXA has all the credentials.
“We have a very strong balance sheet. We only have an 8% exposure to equities, which is hedged anyway. We have significant cash reserves, £363bn in assets, no exposure to toxic assets, and a reputation as a huge global company.”
The new launch comes just a year and a half after AXA bought Winterthur Group from Credit Suisse and follows a strategic review of the businesses.
It will encompass Winterthur's high net worth wealth management arm and AXA's wealth management businesses, including its individual pension and investment business and its international proposition based in the Isle of Man.
Plans for a centralised adviser support service, based on the Winterthur model and replacing the decentralised AXA branch business support network, have been completed. Advisers will be assigned personal business development managers (BDMs) to ensure a single point of contact with AWWM.
“There are many reasons why advisers should be interested in what is going on here,” Thompson says. “We do not want to be seen as just another provider. We want to move into a new phase, and that is about having mutually beneficial relationships with advisers.”
AXA Winterthur Wealth Management will also provide access to the AXA Elevate wrap platform and Architas, its new multi-manager company.
Thompson says the set-up of the new business leaves it “well placed” to deal with the outcomes of the RDR.
“We have factory-gate pricing through Winterthur and, at AXA, commission models,” he says. “In the wrap space we have an off-platform approach and an on-platform approach through Elevate.”
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