image beyond that of an insurance company and reflect its move to become a broader financial services provider and adviser.
The new name signals the diverse businesses pursued by the company's subsidiaries, said Edward D. Miller, chief executive officer.
The 400-year-old Equitable brand will still be attached to insurance and annuity products.
Equitable was the holding company for Equitable Life Assurance Society of the U.S., Alliance Capital Management, and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc. Paris-based Axa Group is Equitable's primary shareholder.
"I saw a real opportunity to reposition," said Mr. Miller, who took over the company in August 1997 after a stint as vice chairman for Chase Manhattan Corp.
"We took a hard look at the strategy that we felt could be sustainable over time.'' The conclusion, he said, was that a move toward financial planning makes sense.
To sell itself as a financial services and advisory company, Axa will spend $40 million on advertising in the next year, Mr. Miller said.
In addition, the company will brand its retail distribution sales force as "Axa Advisors."
The sales force will all be series 7 licensed and will focus on the affluent and emerging-affluent market, Mr. Miller said.
"We're trying to develop a client-centric plan," Mr. Miller said.
Though the company has some of the most professional agents in the industry, selling customers on the idea that an insurance company has become a financial planner won't be easy, said Beth E. Morrow, senior industry analyst for Ernst & Young's National Insurance Group.