CEO of town’s largest employer steps down

RESIGNED: Tracy Garrad will leave AXA this week

THE CEO of Tunbridge Wells’ largest employer has stepped down with almost immediate effect, staff learned last week.

Tracy Garrad of AXA Health announced her resignation to staff last week, and will be stepping down at the end of the month.

AXA Health said: “After four successful years as the Chief Executive of AXA Health, Tracy Garrad has decided the time is right for her to step away from this role and will be leaving AXA at the end of March to pursue her career outside the organisation.”

Chief Financial Officer Matt Vardy is to take over as interim CEO while a new CEO is recruited, said the firm.

According to a local staff member, the move was unexpected.

“She has resigned – quit. It came as a real surprise to all of us. There was no hint, no whispers, she just sent out a staff message last week telling us she felt it was time to move on and she is leaving this [coming] week.

“It has all been very quick. People have mixed feelings,” the employee told the Times.

Rumours had also swirled that all staff would now be moving out of the company’s offices, added the staff member.

However, AXA Health told the Times: “The majority of our people work in a hybrid way and regular attendance in the office not only maintains our culture but also helps to support the local economy.

“This change to our ways of working resulted in the decision to sell some office space and reinvest the capital into refurbishing and upgrading other properties, specifically a significant investment into International House [in Forest Road, Hawkenbury] which AXA Health colleagues will be returning to soon.

“AXA has had a presence in Tunbridge Wells for over 60 years, which we intend to continue. We remain committed to investing in the area and contributing to the success of the town.”

Tracy Garrad’s commitment to hybrid working following the pandemic caused controversy at the time, with concerns being expressed that businesses in town would suffer a loss of custom.

In introducing permanent hybrid working hours, the company closed and sold two offices, Eynsham House and Phillips House on Crescent Road, opposite the Assembly Hall.

Around half of AXA’s 2,000-strong workforce at the time was based in one of the two closed offices, the Times reported in 2021.

More recently, however, the company made a financial contribution to the bus operator running the 285, which connects the town centre with Hawkenbury, where International House is located.

Before being appointed head of the Tunbridge Wells-based health insurance provider in January 2019, Ms Garrad had a successful career in banking, becoming the first female CEO of First Direct, and then of HSBC Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

In its statement, AXA Health confirmed: “Tracy is an executive member of the AXA UK Board and a member of the UK&I Management Committee. She is also a member of the AXA PPP Healthcare Ltd Operating Board. Tracy will step down from these roles when she leaves the business at the end of the month.”

Ms Garrad is also currently a non-executive director of the London Stock Exchange.

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