new team will provide more specialist offshore support for intermediaries
Axa is establishing a specialist offshore sales force for the UK market. It has recruited three sales people and is looking for another three, including a head of the offshore team.
Christine Hall, offshore marketing manager of Axa in the UK, said the three specialists recruited so far cover the Channel Islands, London and the banks and national IFA firms. She added: "We want to recruit the whole team before we announce any names."
Hall admitted it was taking longer than Axa expected to recruit the head of the off- shore team.
The new team is being established to provide more specialist support to IFAs in the UK. "Providing offshore advice to clients can be pretty straightforward but it can also become very complex. Although we had a specialist offshore sales team until a couple of years ago, we feel it is right to re-establish one again.
"Offshore is an important market for us. We have seen particularly strong interest in inheritance tax planning," Hall said.
She added that by September Axa Isle of Man had written more business than in the whole of 2003. She acknowledged, however, that its IHT product, Estate Planning Bond, had suffered an initial dip in sales after the UK government announced in March the introduction of a pre-owned assets tax from April 2005.
"It is now clear that gift and loan as well as discounted gift schemes will not be caught by pre-owned assets."
The establishment of the UK offshore sales team comes after Axa said it was carrying out a feasibility study into whether it should open an office in Dublin.
The insurer said it was investigating the possibility of using a base in the Irish capital to sell cross-border into Europe. Axa cannot do this from its current location on the Isle of Man, which is not part of the EU. Hall said that even if Axa does open a Dublin office, it will retain its operation in the Isle of Man.
The UK offshore market is becoming increasingly competitive. Prudential recently created a sales team to focus solely on offshore business. Steve Johnson, international sales director, is to head the operation, with Richard Leeson managing the sale of offshore products back into the UK.
Standard Life is carrying out a feasibility study into establishing an offshore operation in Dublin to complement its domestic company in Ireland. Legal & General is also investigating the viability of selling offshore products in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, while MGM Assurance is opening an office in the IFSC in Dublin. The mutual society is to market products to wealthy investors in Belgium, Austria and Germany.
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