A “pronounced switch” by customers away from face-to-face engagement in favour of phone and online has been blamed for the pending closure of more than 40% of Axa’s branches in the Republic of Ireland.
According to the motor insurer, 54% of its customers favour phone-based purchases and 34% favour online, with just 9% keen on face-to-face interaction in their local branch.
That is according to research undertaken by the company among its customers and used to justify its decision to close 18 of its 42 branches, starting next year.
The commercial decision means at least 100 staff will lose their positions, although the company says those impacted will be invited to participate in a redundancy scheme or consider redeployment options. What those options are were not outlined in a statement issued by the company last night.
Individual staff in branches that operate a contact centre service will also be impacted as Axa moves to centralise all call-centre operations in Derry, where it has had a call-centre presence for a number of years.
A spokesman for Axa said the changes “are about providing the best possible service to our customers in the way that best suits them”.
Axa said it had completed a strategic review of its “multichannel offering” to set out the “optimum structure for the future” in the wake of the research indicating where customer preferences lay.
“While it is not appropriate to discuss these matters in the media until staff have been informed directly, Axa acknowledges that the review will impact on a number of branches which have low customer engagement,” said a spokesperson.
Axa also intends to make “significant investment in technology and jobs in the company’s contact-centre facilities”. The investment is understood to be in the order of €150m.
Staff at Axa will learn of their futures today, with full briefings scheduled. The company said last night it had “begun engaging with unions” ahead of these briefings and would “work closely with staff and their unions to manage these changes with care and sensitivity”.
The Irish Examiner understands Axa’s Mallow branch at Bank Place is among those facing closure, as is the company’s branch in Ennis, Co Clare. It is thought at least one other Cork branch may be affected — either Midleton or Bantry. The company also has a branch at 52 South Mall in Cork City.
It is also likely that a number of Axa’s 10 Dublin branches will face closure and possibly at least one of its three Tipperary branches, in Nenagh, Clonmel, and Thurles.
The company has two branches in Galway — one in Woodquay in the city and one in Loughrea.
Axe will continue to have the largest branch network in the industry even after the closures.
Axe Insurance Ireland operates across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland with 57 branches, the bulk of them in the Republic. It is the largest motor insurance company in the market with in excess of 900,000 customers.
Axe Group employs more than 1,200 people in the Republic and over 400 people in the North. The company said its overall employee number “will not be impacted significantly as a result of these changes”.
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