Anger erupts as AXA cuts 2,000 insurance jobs

AXA, the insurance giant, provoked a storm of protest yesterday after it announced that it is to cut 2,000 jobs following its pounds 3.45bn takeover of Guardian Royal Exchange.

The scale of the cuts, which include 1,500 compulsory redundancies over two years, is significantly higher than was suggested in February when AXA won the auction for GRE. Its success at the time was due in part to the fact that, unlike rival bidder Royal & SunAlliance, which was talking of 5,000 job cuts, AXA had talked only of modest staff reductions.

Mark Wood, chief executive of AXA's UK offshoot Sun Life & Provincial, said in February when the deal was announced that these would be "in the hundreds, not the thousands".

Bernadette Fisher, negotiator for the banking and finance union Bifu, attacked yesterday's job cuts. "When the AXA bid was announced in February it appeared to be the best option for staff of the ailing insurer. AXA do look set to bring much needed investment to help turn the company around. However, staff on the general side of the company are set to pay a very high price to secure the future of the business." She added: "Nearly one in three jobs is set to disappear on the general side."

AXA, which sponsors football's FA Cup, said that 100 days after the initial takeover announcement, its integration teams had found scope for an extra pounds 15m of savings on top of the pounds 50m talked of in February, although the cost of achieving those savings has also gone up from pounds 80m to pounds 91m, which will be taken as a one-off charge.

Following the takeover, which went unconditional yesterday, AXA plans to cut the number of commercial business branches from 32 to 18, the number of sites for processing claims from 17 to six, and the number of offices where calls from the public are answered from 24 to four, all of which will be integrated into a permanently-open "virtual call centre".

As a result, over the next two years the group will close down operations at 11 sites around the country, including Exeter, Folkestone, Hitchin, Liverpool, Nottingham and Wolverhampton. The cuts have fallen equally heavily on AXA and GRE's general insurance business.

Particularly badly hit will be the Cumbrian town of Kendal, where AXA employs 400 at the former Provincial insurance headquarters, which will also close. Provincial is one of the largest single employers in the region.

The group also plans to move to one single integrated computer system. The GRE name will be progressively phased out starting in July when all new policies sold over the phone will be branded as AXA, with existing Guardian policies switching to AXA as they are renewed.

Guardian's healthcare brand, PPP, will remain. Peter Owen has agreed to stay on as chief executive of PPP and to implement an efficiency programme, while John Robins, the chief executive of GRE, will stay on for a year on a reduced salary advising Claude Bebear, the AXA chairman, on opportunities in South-east Asia.

No final decisions have yet been made on the future of GRE's Irish business or its UK life and asset management operations. Both are under review.

Yesterday Mr Wood said that, while he was sad for those affected by the cuts, he believed it was better to announce the redundancies now as a block to reduce uncertainty. "The decisions we are announcing today set the course for the business and remove many of the long-term uncertainties, particularly for staff, which are often associated with mergers and acquisitions."

Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
Arts and Entertainment
Tulisa as a judge on the X Factor in 2012
tvLouis Walsh confirms star's return
Life and Style
fashionClothes shop opens on Bill Clinton Boulevard in Pristina
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Life and Style
life
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
tech
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Test Manager - Banking - Yorkshire - £450 per day

£400 - £500 per day: Orgtel: Test Manager - Banking - West Yorkshire - £400-£5...

SAS Developer - DI Studio - Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Developer, Chester, Banking, DI Studio, £450-...

Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40 - £50K first year: SThree: SThree Group an...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone