The human side of change by Amélie Watelet

What does business transformation really mean to AXA IM?

The term ‘business transformation’ drives 512,000,000 results in a Google search and more than ten thousand book entries on Amazon alone1.  It is one of the leading corporate topics of our time.  At a moment when the pace of globalisation, innovation and digitalisation is accelerating, we all recognise that change is inevitable. 

Management text books will tell you that business transformation is about overhauling systems, processes and technology.   After some twenty years in human resources, change management and communications, I can tell you that it is people, not systems, that create change.  And because that is the case, effective change is really about three things.

Having a shared purpose

Change starts with purpose.  A common purpose stirs an emotional response, an energy and a drive. It creates belief. This is nearly always more unifying than a strategic roadmap!

At its core, AXA IM’s purpose is about improvement.  Of course, you would expect a major global asset manager to aim to deliver sustainable and strong investment performance for our clients, but being Better Tomorrow goes much further.  Being Better Tomorrow is as much about the positive societal impact we create as an employer and as a corporate citizen, as it is about our investment capability.  It is about leading the charge in an industry that must make investing easier.

Our premise is that we improve ourselves, our lives, our business, and, in doing so, we are backing ourselves to build better futures for our clients, our employees and the communities we touch. We are embracing new skills and technologies, taking data science into the heart of our operations and our investment decisions.  We are rethinking and simplifying our processes and reimagining what an asset manager is engaged with.  We are ensuring that our people are trusted and empowered to work flexibly.

There is little doubt that delivering on our strategic aims and priorities will still require a profound transformation.  We need to think forward, behave more efficiently, more collaboratively and with greater agility.  This will enable us to grow in an industry which is undergoing significant structural change itself.  

Ultimately, it will make us more mindful of the reason ‘why’ we exist.

Playing the change games like a team sport

But organisational change doesn’t develop in a boardroom.  It starts inside the minds of your people. I am a firm believer in the power of leadership to set a course, but true progress is always a collective effort. 

We are empowering our team to strive to achieve that purpose. We don’t always get it right, but we believe our own revolution relies on every man and woman to make their contribution.  Every single employee has a role to play.  AXA IM is a sum of its parts and each contribution will be different.

This is our commitment.  Becoming Better Tomorrow means many different things to different people and there is a strength in that.  Around the world our teams are engaged in hundreds of initiatives to drive for better. 

Moving away from the black box syndrome

As human beings, of course, how we feel about change often depends on how it is handled. While we recognise that change is inevitable, we are also creatures of habit.  There is a defining feature of positive change – encouraging honest and transparent communication, rather than operating in a black box. Speaking openly and sharing your progress, your challenges and your failures, leads to breakthrough moments. As my maths teacher used to tell me, you need to show the working out, it is just as important as the end outcome.

This is where our new hub, AXA IM Progress, comes in.  Here we will commit to showing aspects of our business, yet not widely seen or known, through the voices and experiences of our employees, clients as well as external experts. We want to lift the lid of our company, show you what it means to be part of AXA IM or to work with AXA IM.  We will reveal more about the initiatives we are prioritising and communicate evidence of our progress against our company strategy and purpose.

In doing so, we hope to bring everyone – clients, partners, employees, prospective talent – on the journey, as we seek to redefine what it means to be Better Tomorrow.  This is what progress looks like to us.

Amélie Watelet,
Chief Transformation Officer and Global Head of HR and Communications

[1] As at 10 August 2019

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