Results season always pits the top firms against one another and in some cases its possible to uncover the true politicians amongst a sector’s big fromages.
If poking the opposition forms part of your favoured political archetype, then look no further than Axa UK chief executive Philippe Maso, who has attempted to huddle with Allianz and Zurich and gang up against Aviva, which he claims is still pricing ‘aggressively’ (ie cheap), against his better judgement.
In my imagination life’s always more interesting so I would like to indulge the following idea; there must be an element of coopetition going on at the top of some of our largest insurers. Perhaps Maso asked Allianz and Zurich beforehand if they wanted to be named publicly in his group of premium inflators and today a call has come through to Axa towers from both Andrew Torrance and Stephen Lewis thanking Axa for the compliment of being labelled ‘serious players’.
In the true spirit of finding an angle to an otherwise unexciting set of results, Axa’s figures come up the rear of this article. They aren’t spectacular, but they’re not as bad as some; an 18% fall in annual profits to £235m (much better than Zurich’s tumble from £295m in 2008, to £146m in 2009 announced two weeks ago) and more namedropping, this time for Peter Cullum who luckily ‘speaks the same language’ as Maso.
The Axa UK boss comes across as supremely confident perhaps because a man that smiles when times are hard has probably just thought of someone else to blame.