“The incoming chief executive of French insurer Axa has said in his first interview that he wants the company to focus on the group’s digital transformation rather than making more big acquisitions.

Axa announced on Monday that Thomas Buberl, the 42-year-old head of the group’s German operations, would take over as CEO of the insurer in September, replacing Henri de Castries, who has held the job for 16 years.”

Source: www.ft.com

If I remember correctly, it was Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan, who was very vocal about the competition from Silicon Valley, and the threat to banks.

But to my knowledge, that’s the first time that I see a newly-nominated CEO of a financial institution (in that case an insurer, Axa) explicitely mention digital transformation as a strategic axis.

Axa has been very active in innovation recently (from Axa Seed Factory, to Axa Labs to Axa Strategic Ventures), perhaps one of the most active ones together with Generali or Aviva in Europe, and it is therefore not surprising to see such a focus on innovation. However, innovation is rarely seen as a strategic focus  for large organisations. Most organisations have a digital strategy – that is “easy”. But it is very different from having a strategy in a digital world – that is much harder. I am very impressed therefore to see the new Axa CEO define his priority as “focus on transforming the business model for a digital future”, which is a real strategic decision.

If you read the FT article, you will see that it’s not what we normally expect to read in the first interview of a CEO of a large financial institution. For all these reasons, this first interview from Thomas Buberl is  eminently interesting and it will be fascinating to see how this develops at Axa. More generally, is it the beginning of a trend, where senior management of large organisations are much more digitally aware?

So to come back to the initial question, it is Axa’s new CEO who mentioned Google and Facebook as competitors to watch, and it’s clearly a view that I share



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