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When clients start to call the shots

Axa gave its brokers a nasty shock last year. It decided that it was inefficient for local offices to continue to deal with local firms and chose instead to select a much smaller number of global brokers. All of its brokers had to complete a hefty questionnaire explaining why they were up to the job of servicing one of the world’s biggest investing institutions. If relationship banks couldn’t fulfil various criteria, including access to senior staff, they were dropped from the list. And it’s not easy to get back on it.

It seems that many securities brokers still don't take customer relationship management as seriously as big customers such as Axa do. Aside from the firms that took part in this discussion - ABN Amro, Citigroup and HSBC - most of the other firms that were invited offered lame excuses, such as "we don't have anybody who manages client relationships".

If they really don't, then they may have to find that person, because Axa almost certainly won't be the last large investing client to reassess its brokers. Most of the biggest global firms are likely to be kept on, as will a few niche players. Some of the local players, though, many of which have already lost a share of Axa's wallet, will inevitably be squeezed out.

In this roundtable, Axa's global head of business support, Melissa McDonald, explains the selection process and describes what firms should be doing better to guarantee Axa's business. Malcolm Jones, head of fixed interest at Aegon UK, also explains how he chooses which securities firms to work with. Their concerns are answered by Valentin Ehmer, head of European product sales at Citigroup, Mike Stone, head of fixed income sales at HSBC, and Dirk Jan van der Hoeden, account manager at ABN Amro.

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