AXA CEO emphasizes climate change as top risk in annual report

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AXA CEO emphasizes climate change as top risk in annual report
Credit: © Reuters.

PARIS - Thomas Buberl, CEO of AXA (CS:France), has been at the forefront of transforming the Paris-based insurer since taking the helm in 2016. Under his leadership, AXA has shifted focus from its life insurance roots to become a global leader in insuring companies' physical assets. With nearly $920 billion in financial assets under management, AXA stands as one of the world's largest insurance companies.

Despite facing global challenges like Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in a 300 million euro ($325 million) cost to AXA, Buberl has maintained the company's profitability. He has also positioned AXA as a strong advocate for climate action, leading to the firm's divestment from coal.

The insights driving Buberl's strategy are partly drawn from AXA's annual Future Risks report, which paints a picture of a world grappling with "polyrisis," or interconnected risks. The report ranks climate change as the foremost global risk, followed by cybersecurity, geopolitical instability, artificial intelligence and big data, and energy concerns.

Buberl echoes the report's findings, acknowledging the growing impact and interdependencies among these risks. He supports the use of the term "polycrisis" to describe how climate change exacerbates other crises and sees both climate change and technological threats as foundational risks that influence others.

He notes that these risks contribute to increasing social fragmentation across various regions. In Africa, climate risk is driving migration, while energy and food crises are pushing more people into poverty. Additionally, Buberl points out significant social disparities within regions like the Middle East and China.

The AXA CEO criticizes markets for not adequately pricing in these interconnected risks and cites Al Gore's description of climate risk transitioning from an alarming phenomenon to a destructive reality. He argues that the full consequences of climate disasters on infrastructure and health are still not completely understood.

While Buberl suggests considering a new social contract to address these issues, he acknowledges the challenges in proposing solutions without fully grasping the problem's extent. Nevertheless, he sees these turbulent times as an opportunity for AXA, whose business model inherently involves managing social contracts.

On geopolitical risks, Buberl references Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the emergence of hybrid warfare tactics, including cyberattacks and migration crises.

Clarifying AXA's stance on fossil fuel investment, Buberl explains why the company chose to divest from coal but not entirely from fossil fuels. He advocates for a pragmatic transition towards sustainable energy sources rather than an abrupt cessation due to current alternative energy limitations.

Reflecting on his decision to steer AXA away from life insurance amid low interest rates and limited growth prospects, Buberl expresses satisfaction with the pivot towards insuring against large evolving risks such as cyber threats, climate transition risks, and supply-chain vulnerabilities. Looking ahead, he anticipates further growth opportunities for AXA in these areas.

This article was generated with the support of AI and reviewed by an editor. For more information see our T&C.

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