The Chairman of the Board, Denis Duverne, opens the conference and reminds ” the joy of finding shareholders after two years behind closed doors “This is his last meeting, as he will step down as chairman at the end of this meeting.” A chapter in the history of Axa turns explains, with the appointment of Antoine Gosset-Grainville as Chairman of the Board. He also renews his trust in him, as well as in Thomas Buberl, CEO.
A steady performance of 2021
It’s after a short video sequence that Thomas Buberl begins his presentation, assuring ” that Axa is at the beginning of a new phase of transformation This will be based on three pillars: simplifying the group, transforming the risk-taking profile and improving the customer experience. He also returned to ” excellent perfomance for 2021, in line with the objectives of the “Driving Process 2023” plan presented at the end of 2020. He recalled that net operating income per share increased by 7% in 2021, according to the target range between 3% and 7%. The current return on equity, at 14.7%, is also at the top of the target, between 13% and 15%. In addition, it welcomed the increase in the solvency ratio to 217%, well above the target of the 190% Driving Procedure plan. It confirms the stability and resilience of the company in an unstable geopolitical and economic context.
Thomas Buberl believes that ” Axa is doing very well and has successfully completed her transformation released in 2016, with the aim of refocusing the company on strategic markets and reducing the awareness of financial risks. He praised Axa XL’s operating profits, back in the green, at almost 1.2 billion euros, and wants to continue growing its Major Risks subsidiary. The change must continue according to him and Axa must look to the international. The manager intends to continue its expansion in Europe, which represents 2.4 billion revenues but reduced by 4% this year. However, he claims that France remains the pillar of the group, with a business volume of 1.8 billion euros (+ 8%). Prolonged life expectancy and the globalization of business are increasing the need for insurance protection on the European continent. In addition to international development, Thomas Buberl expressed the need for ecological and responsible governance: One of Axa’s five key priorities is tackling climate change According to the chairman of the Net Zero Insurance Alliance, Axa will therefore invest 1.5 billion euros in sustainable forest management and wants to increase its green investments to 26 billion by 2023.
Frédéric de Courtois, who had his first meeting as Deputy Chief Executive Officer, is rolling out the accounts for 2021. . In this segment, Axa hopes to strengthen its sponsorships and targets a combined ratio of 93% in 2023. This ratio, related to the cost of revenue receivables, fell again, from 96.4% (excluding Covid ) in 2020, to 94.6% This year. The savings and retirement sector saw an increase in business volume (+ 9%), with excellent performance in France (+ 17%), due to pension products and euro growth funds. Growth is also maintained in Asia (mainly Hong Kong and Japan) and allows this sector to return to operating profit by 3%, while it decreased by 1% in 2020. Finally, he stressed, for the Asset Management sector, excellent capital which has allowed turnover to increase by 20% this year.
Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Compensation Committee, announces the newcomers to the Board of Directors as well as the remuneration policy. He reminds that the group has a rule not to change compensation during the term of the director. However, he explains that the current fixed salary of the DG is 1.45 million euros and that with a new resolution it aims to increase it to 1.65 million euros. The variable compensation of the manager must be increased to 1.75 million euros. This is determined depending on the performance of the group for 70%, but also the individual performance of the manager for 30%. Jean-Pierre Clamadieu justifies these increases by the fact that Thomas Buberl is changing his term and that no increase has been made during his last two terms. In addition, they were paid less than other directors of large insurance companies. As a result, Axa lost competitiveness. However, this pay rise is not to everyone’s liking, as the ISS-influenced consulting firm has called on shareholders to oppose it. In addition to compensation, Jean-Pierre Clamadieu insists on Axa’s employee stock policy, in particular Shareplan. In 2021, 291 million euros of shares were acquired by more than 21,000 employees. They thus hold 4.1% of the capital and 6% of the voting rights.
A stormy question and answer session
This is followed by a question and answer session, which was extremely lively. Indeed, she was marked by journalist Elise Lucet, known for her persistence with the great leaders on the Cash Investigation show. He asked the insurance company to continue its investments in oil companies, although others, such as CNP Assurances, have stopped them. Thomas Buberl answered the question of transition. In fact, he considers that it is absolutely necessary to continue the exit from fossil fuels, while taking into account the constraints of the companies in this energy transition. This is why Axa continues to invest in “mineral” companies that are compatible with the 2050 zero carbon strategy. This position was supported by the president, Denis Duverne, who explains: Must continue to use fossil fuels, otherwise the economy would stop and it would not be a transition Thomas Buberl also recalled that the investment in fossil fuels represented a small fraction of Axa’s total investment. In addition, he confirmed that the company had pioneer » in the reduction of fossil fuels, with withdrawal from coal in 2015 and reduction of its investments in oil and shale by more than 70%.
The increase in the salary of the disputed director was also challenged by a former employee of the group, adopting an honest turn: ” Mr Buberl, if you were paid less, would you do less work for Axa? “In the end, it was Denis Duverne who responded, believing that the decision that was made was” right », Considering that it was based on the performance of the group, and that of the manager.
The results of the vote have now been revealed. The dividend of 1.54 euros is voted at 99.93%. The ex-post remuneration of the CEO for 2021 is adopted with 90.86% of the votes. On the other hand, the ex-ante salaries related to the increase of fixed and variable salaries are voted by only 77.7%, testifying to the disagreement that prevailed for this salary increase.