AXA is a French multinational insurance firm headquartered in the 8th arrondissement of Paris that engages in global insurance, investment management, and other financial services.
AXA joined the top 3 global financial services brands in 2016. The AXA Group operates primarily in Western Europe, North America, the Asia Pacific region, and the Middle East, with presence also in Africa. AXA is a conglomerate of independently run businesses, operated according to the laws and regulations of many different countries. The company is a component of the Euro Stoxx 50 stock market index.
According to a 2011 paper by Vitali et al., AXA was the second most powerful transnational corporation in terms of ownership and thus corporate control over global financial stability and market competition with Barclays and State Street Corporation taking the 1st and 3rd position, respectively.
The company was founded in 1816 as Mutuelle de L'assurance contre L'incendie (the Ancienne Mutuelle). It acquired Compagnie Parisienne de Garantie in 1978 and became Mutuelles Unies. It went on to buy the Drouot Group in 1982, becoming Mutuelles Unies/Drouot. It adopted the AXA name in 1985. The takeover of the American insurance company The Equitable, came in 1991. It bought Union des Assurances De Paris (UAP), France's largest insurer, in 1996 becoming AXA-UAP for a while before reverting to the name AXA in 1999. Then in February 1999 AXA acquired Guardian Royal Exchange. In May 2000 AXA acquired all shares it did not already own in Sun Life & Provincial Holdings. On 14 June 2006 AXA acquired the leading Swiss insurance company Winterthur Group from Credit Suisse for approximately €9 billion.
During May 2016 it announced it was to stop investing in tobacco shares and bonds and allow its portfolio of tobacco-related bonds to run off.
Despite being written in upper case, "AXA" is not an acronym, but was chosen because its name can be pronounced easily by people who speak any language. After acquiring the Drouot Group in 1982, Chairman and CEO Claude Bébéar hired an outside consultant to conduct a computer-aided search for a new name. Bébéar wanted a short and snappy name to convey vitality and could be pronounced the same way in every language, consistent with the group's desire for an international presence. Initially, "Elan" was the top choice, but Canadian executives balked because "elan" is the French word for a moose or elk. In 1985, Bébéar chose the name AXA.