This article appeared in Finance Magazine

Variety is the spice of insurance life
Responding to complaints, discussing new product developments and attending award ceremonies all form part of a typical day in the life of Aidan Cassells, executive director, business operations at AXA Insurance.
6.15am The day starts as Maxi‚€ôs dulcet tones ease me into the day. By 6.45 am I am ready to face the 30 minute drive to Wolfe Tone Street. It will never cease to amaze me the volume of traffic at this hour, still it beats a 90-minute drive if I leave at 7.30 am.

7.15am After parking I head straight to my office and switch on my PC. Time now I feel for coffee to help kick start the day. A quick scan of my unread mail. I‚€ôm pleased to see that one of the mails contains statistics and information I will need for my 8 am meeting.

8.00am Weekly update meeting with John O‚€ôNeill, chief executive, Pat Healy, executive director, Finance, Actuarial and Planning and two of our senior managers commences on time. The purpose of this meeting is to review business performance during the previous week and identify any issues that need immediate attention.

9.00am Satisfied that our new business and renewal figures are in line with our targets I check my diary to remind myself of what the rest of the day holds. Great, 30 minutes before the next meeting, time to make a couple of calls. My first call is to Mike Kemp, chief executive of the Irish Insurance Federation, the representative body for the insurance company market in Ireland. Mike wants me to speak at the IIF‚€ôs board meeting next week on European issues and I need to clarify timing and precise issues to be covered.

9.30am I hurry to the boardroom to attend a meeting to discuss ‚€ėTraksure‚€ô. Traksure is a new road safety device to control the speed behaviour of, and promote careful driving by young, inexperienced male drivers. In return for participation in the programme, drivers get substantial discounts (40 per cent +) off their own car insurance premiums. It works by monitoring the speed of a car against speed limits, and detects each infringement of the speed limit. Evidence to date is that Traksure has the potential to halve the number of accidents involving personal injury in this age group. Road accidents is the biggest killer of young males under 25 and therefore any initiative that helps reduce accidents in this key age group is well worth pursuing.
Reducing accidents is also the most effective ways to bring down insurance costs, AXA, as I‚€ôm sure you know, is committed to promoting road safety in Ireland and to date have invested close to e2 million to supporting the National Safety Council‚€ôs road safety campaign. It is a key priority for us as a company to work more aggressively to promote road safety and thus reduce insurance costs for customers generally.

10.45am I make myself a well-deserved coffee and go in search of some fruit (healthy eating week!!)
11.00am Sylvia Cronin, business services and development manager, sticks her head around my door and asks if I have a minute. She has a meeting in AIB this afternoon and needs my views on one or two things. AXA and AIB have a very successful strategic alliance and mutually support each other‚€ôs products. AIB sells AXA Home Insurance products through its many outlets and channels and AXA in turn promotes AIB‚€ôs personal loans through its customer base.

11.40am Back to my e-mails, a number today are from the Secretariat of the Comité Europeén des Assurances. I chair the Single Market Committee of the Comité Europeén des Assurances (European Insurance Committee). The Single Market Committee is responsible for defining and implementing European Insurers policy for the effective and satisfactory realisation of the Single Insurance Market. Today I have received a number of documents for my comments and signoff. There is never enough time to read these comprehensive documents during the day, I print them and put in my briefcase to read later that evening at home.

12.15pm Time for a quick preview of the new AXA TV ads that our marketing team in conjunction with our advertising agents, Young‚€ôs, have been working on. These advertisements need now to be signed off by the executive team and sent to RTE to go on air for April 1st. Our innovative concept of utilising AXA staff as icons to representative the AXA brand both in the national and local papers and in radio campaigns won us an award recently in the Irish Independent, National Sales and Marketing Awards.

12.50pm Back at my desk and my chicken salad arrives from our staff restaurant (more healthy eating!). Whilst eating my lunch I scan the Irish Times headlines. Two articles quickly catch my eye - ‚€ėEuropean shares rise again as oil prices fall‚€ô. Share prices in Europe rose for the fifth day in a row as hopes grow of a swift and decisive war in Iraq. The other article ‚€ėFortis, Generali and Allianz vie for top of Leaderboard‚€ô states that once again it was the insurance sector that led the European equities pack. Maybe those share options will have some value yet!

1.30pm Now it‚€ôs time to have a look at the post that‚€ôs come in today. An invitation to a large broker‚€ôs corporate day is the first piece I see. Looks like a great event but unfortunately the date coincides with my next Single Market committee meeting in Brussels. My post also contains a letter from an unsatisfied customer. The case has been referred to me by the Insurance Ombudsman, Caroline Gill for review. The complaint is from a lady in Cork who is upset that the Waterford Glass she got as a wedding present many years before has been knocked over and broken and is not covered under her household policy. It had huge sentimental value to her and she felt further upset at the fact that she thought this item was covered when she opened up the policy with AXA. AXA always tries to be fair to our customers and I decide to pay the claim on an ‚€ėex gratia‚€ô basis, giving the benefit of the doubt to our customer.

2.00pm Padraic Mills, director IT and MIS and John Farrell, manager of personal direct come to my office for a meeting to discuss developments in relation to our e-motor offering. This is generating considerable consumer interest following our partnership with Eircom.net. We have carried out a review of our site and a number of important changes have been proposed. A project team is put in place to implement agreed changes.

3.30pm That meeting ran over longer than it should have. I finish reading and replying to my mails and make yet another list of ‚€ėthings to do‚€ô - I jot down some preliminary thoughts on items that I would like raised on the agenda of the next meeting with my senior management team and a note of people I need to ring.

5.00pm Text (instruction!) from my eldest daughter, not to forget to pick her up on the way home. Time now to attend an innovations award ceremony in our staff restaurant. This opens with wine and canap√©s and a welcome address by John O‚€ôNeill. Innovation, creative thinking and the generation of business improvement ideas are very much a focus at AXA. Staff are encouraged to constantly try and improve processes and procedures throughout the company and are rewarded for their efforts. All the winners are delighted and proudly show off their trophies and their cash awards. The ceremony finishes and a buffet meal is served.

7.00pm I head for home collecting my daughter along the way.
This article appeared in the April 2003 edition of Finance Magazine.