This month sees the rebranding of elements of AXA life, pensions and investments that have become part of Friends Provident.
This gets a little confusing, AXA are still trading and still operate in the UK providing insurance and financial services, however much of their older UK businesses, in particular Equity and Law and Sun Life, have been sold to Friends Provident. 
You may remember Equity and Law (1844), they were taken over by Compagnie du Midi in 1987 who merged with AXA a year later. It took a while for the branding to kick in, but eventually AXA Equity and Law was “launched”.
Sun Life were then taken over by AXA in the late 1990’s and their brand was relaunched as AXA Sun Life and eventually the AXA Equity and Law branding was dropped.
Friends Provident took over AXA Sun Life in September last year. This is in addition to the fact that Friends Provident bought BUPA a deal that was completed at the start of February 2011.
Just to complicate matters Friends Provident (originally set up by the Quakers in 1832) were bought by Resolution on 5th November 2009. So really it is Resolution that are behind all the activity. Resolution have a stratgey of acquiring businesses throughout Europe, essentially in order to make them more efficient and more profitable – along the lines of 1+1=3 and all that. You can have a look at their stategy here.
Anyhow, long story short, (too late! you cry) this month sees the start of some serious rebranding, where marketing departments will go into overdrive. The new brand name will be Friends Life, I have yet to see a logo for this, but imagine that this will be launched shortly).
In the past, AXA Equity and Law provided excellent income protection arrangements and were pioneers in critical illness cover with their “Multiplan” range. Many of you may still have these. Friends Provident provided a very good income protection policy with guaranteed cover and more recently a pretty good critical illness policy, though this went head to head with AXA’s. Now they are all in the same stable.
Friends Provident were known for their Stewardship funds (ethically screened funds) and this is one of the reasons that people used them for pensions. AXA Sun Life offered some very good pensions. There has been tremendous innovation in the pension world and both companies, like most pension companies have been struggling to come to terms with RDR and the challenge of fund platforms – where a pension is basically just a tax wrapper with access to hundreds of funds. Mind you, there’s still a lot of money in old style pensions and this money under management will have appeal to Resolution, who have signficant financial muscle to be able to develop a profitable proposition.
This may help to explain why even those within the industry find it hard to keep track of who owns who and why the pieces of paper that you get each year suddenly look rather different. Another reason why it is important to keep on top of your investments.
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