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AMII AGM 2019: New AXA PPP boss has high hopes for industry’s future

Former banking boss Tracey Garrad says sector sees ‘huge opportunities’ for sector at ‘tipping point’

“Some of my friends thought I was going mad. Why would I want to leave banking after 17 years and move into insurance, let alone a specialised branch?” Tracy Garrad, the new CEO of AXA PPP healthcare told this year’s Association of Medical Insurer & Intermediaries AGM in Milton Keynes.

The former head of First Direct and more recently of HSBC Channel Islands explained her motivation for leaving banking and moving to AXA PPP.

Garrad (pictured) told the conference: “Our mission is to empower better lives. I lost my mum to cancer when I was 17 so there was a powerful attraction to join a UK health market leader especially at a time when both private medical insurance [PMI] and healthcare are at tipping points. As one of the biggest players, we can be a force for good in the industry. I see huge opportunities for transformation. We have to be more customer-centric.”

She continued: “I have no regrets in leaving the bank although it has taken some months to get back in touch with my new life. I’m excited to be here as we have an incredible story with real ambition and growth. I see customers, insurer and our staff as a single team with brokers the bridge.

“There are few things more important than health so how we are making a difference will be part of our messaging for months to come. Health is changing fast. New drugs extend lives. A new drug costing £10m a go could add 25 years to kidney patients. There is personalised medicine because the one size fits all approach no longer works.”

Garrard said sees a world where consumers are increasingly taking control through digital research, remote care and tele-medicine and looks forward to a new technology of proton beams, portable diagnostics and 3D printing of prosthetics.

“Some of these therapies are now – we already see shorter hospital admissions and better recovery time. New implantable devices can reduce pain.”

But avoidable illness continues to dog the medical world.

She said: “A quarter are obese, a third are overweight and one in three workers will be over 50 by next year. Stress is huge – 44% of our work-related cases and accounting for 57% of days lost. We need to think about both insurer and NHS stability.

“Personal funding of healthcare is increasing but consumers need guidance – some providers are doubtful where this is going, however. We promise our customers that we shall put good health into their own hands – we are giving unlimited access to our GP services online. We want individual health plans so we can have personalised coaching sessions – our Proactive Health Gateway has real success stories of how intervention has lead to diabetes reversal. Ultimately, it’s re-imagining the customer experience.”

In order to achieve this, “insurers have increasingly to look outside the insurance space” with healthy ageing a priority and an important opportunity to offer care to those in their sixties and seventies.

“It’s all about empowering customers to take health into their own hands.”

But she warned: “We can’t ignore uncertain times where we are spending less on almost everything. We want to ensure healthcare is affordable for more people – that’s our challenge – so we are bringing in more options and more modular plans. That means the medical profession must ensure the right treatment and that no one is paying for unnecessary procedures – our database helps us tackle over-diagnosis and over-treatment.”

She said the days of consultants-as-kings is over.

She said: “We need greater transparency. We tend to defer to clinicians. Why? In other areas, we all make more and better-informed choices.

“Yes, we are aware of the costs of regulation. These come from a place of good intent but we need to prevent the one-off problem becoming a systemic rule. Often, regulation is clumsy. But how we adapt is also clumsy. As long as we are focused on doing the right thing, that will be the same as a book of regulations.”

Addressing the brokers, she said: “What do you think your customers want?”

Summing up she said: “I may be mad to leave banking but I think any market seeing a decline is an opportunity to re-imagine and re-invent. We can face a great future but we need to take a different approach from fighting each other. That’s not in anyone’s long term interest.”