AXA SA, Europe’s second-largest insurer, said yesterday it remained upbeat about its plan to re-establish a local branch, after Taiwan’s financial authorities rejected their plans last week on concerns over the French firm’s long-term commitment to the local market.
The company said in a statement that it has 45 employees in a preparatory office located in Taipei City’s Xinyi District (信義). AXA has spent up to NT$400 million (US$13.49 million) in preparation for the establishment of a local branch, it added.
“The company also plans to inject more than NT$3 billion into its Taiwanese branch over the next seven years, that will help create 350 job opportunities and thousands of vacancies for sales representatives,” AXA said in the statement.
In February, AXA said it aimed to hire 300 local employees and 5,000 sales representatives within five years.
“As many foreign insurance companies are exiting Taiwan under the global market volatility, the company wants to become the first foreign insurance company to invest in this market after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis,” AXA said in the statement.
The French firm’s comments came after the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) on Thursday rejected an application filed by its local subsidiary, AXA Taiwan, to establish a branch here, saying the French group has already exited Taiwan twice in the past and the commission needs more supporting documents to be filed by the group.
It is rare for the commission to reject an application and marks the first time Taiwan has rejected an application by a foreign insurance firm.
According to the commission, AXA has a patchy track record in Taiwan: It first established a local branch in Taiwan, National Mutual Life Insurance Co (安盛國衛人壽), but sold its entire business to Aegon Life Insurance (Taiwan) Inc (全球人壽) in 2001. Then in 2006, AXA acquired the Swiss-based Winterthur Insurance, which owned a subsidiary in Taiwan, but sold the subsidiary to Taiwan Life Insurance Co (台灣人壽) in 2007.
On Jan. 16 this year, the French company applied to make its third entry attempt to open a local branch and was asked by the financial regulator last month to submit more documents. Despite AXA’s promise to maintain its presence in Taiwan for at least 10 years, the commission turned down its application last week.
In the statement, AXA said it would soon submit to Taiwanese authorities the approval documents from Bermuda authorities on the company’s plan to set up a Taiwanese branch as requested by the commission.
Moreover, Henri de Castries, chairman and chief executive of AXA, is scheduled to meet Taiwanese officials in the near future to have more discussions about the company’s long-term commitments to the local market, according to the statement, which did not say when De Castries plans to visit Taiwan.