Posted Apr 28, 2022, 6:45 PMUpdated on Apr 28, 2022 at 7:22 PM
AXA’s general meeting, which was held on Thursday April 28, marked the handover between the chairman of the board Denis Duverne, a historical figure in the French insurance flagship, and his successor Antoine Gosset-Grainville. It was also an opportunity to have the shareholders represented approve, at only 77.7%, the new compensation policy for CEO Thomas Buberl.
According to this new policy, criticized upstream of the GA by proxy advisory agencies, the annual fixed compensation of the Franco-German boss could be increased by nearly 14%, to 1.65 million euros, for the years who come. In addition, his target annual variable compensation would increase by nearly 21%, to 1.75 million. In addition to these two components, there is also the distribution of free shares.
Renewal of mandate
Chairman of the compensation and governance committee, Jean-Pierre Clamadieu defended this new policy by the fact that the compensation of Thomas Buberl, in office since 2016, had “not changed during the last six years”. The renewal of his mandate for a period of four years, moreover adopted by 99.50%, gave the opportunity to further align his remuneration with that of his European competitors, according to him.
This debate comes as a new chapter in the history of AXA opens. The French insurance giant will now be chaired by someone who does not come from the group or the insurance sector. Unlike his predecessor, Antoine Gosset-Grainville, a renowned business lawyer in Paris, and former deputy director of François Fillon’s office in Matignon, did not make a career at AXA.
“I am very honored by the confidence that the Board of Directors places in me by appointing me as Chairman of AXA”, he declared to the shareholders, pledging to make the Board work “in the way as collective and as constructive as possible” and in a climate of “trust” with Thomas Buberl.
Close to Henri de Castries
The one who began his career at the European Commission and headed the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations ad interim, has already made his mark. Close to Henri de Castries, who led the insurance group from 2000 to 2016 before joining François Fillon’s presidential election campaign team and chairing Institut Montaigne, he has been a member of the board since 2020. But he will now have to establish himself in a house known for its strong corporate culture.
Since his appointment a year ago, following a process supported by a recruitment firm, Antoine Gosset-Grainville has met all the members of the executive committee and prepared himself closely with Denis Duverne, the former financial director who leaves the presidency of the group “with emotion” at the age of 68. He is already doing a weekly update with Thomas Buberl and will soon be touring the subsidiaries.
His taking office comes as the group is on the way to succeeding in the bet of integrating XL, the specialist in large industrial risks bought for 15 billion dollars in 2018, but remains faced with a series of challenges. After the Covid-19 crisis, which highlighted the limits of insurance, it faces a volatile context marked by the war in Ukraine, soaring inflation, the end of low interest rates and climate change.
“The perimeter is clearly identified”
“The role of the board is to monitor the proper execution of the strategic plan, taking into account external economic and financial developments and underlying trends such as the climate or digital transition”, declares to “Echos” Antoine Gosset-Grainville, who will take over the Denis Duverne’s office at the Defense headquarters, while remaining at the head of the business law firm he founded in 2013, BDGS.
“I’m going to practice my profession as a lawyer over shorter periods of time by definition, if only because I won’t be dealing with any file related to AXA or the insurance sector,” he says. The scope is clearly identified. “A delicate issue, his firm being regularly mandated by banks, and AXA being by nature a leading investor in France.
At the general meeting, the shareholders also adopted the appointment as director of Gérald Harlin, the group’s former financial director. “His presence will help maintain business and sector expertise and an intimate knowledge of AXA within the Board, believes Antoine Gosset-Grainville. It is important.”