Sanlam Group: establishment, development and expansion

Founded over a century ago, Sanlam has grown from a local South African insurance company to the undisputed leader of an entire continent.

SanlamHeadquartered in Cape Town, the global group provides diversified financial services, combining innovation and digital transformation.

Sanlam’s Establishment

The meeting of a small group of Afrikaners and a Scotsman in a Cape Town hotel in December 1917 marked the starting point of the Sanlam story. A few months later, on 28 March 1918, the Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Trust en Assuransie Maatskappij Beperk (South African National Trust and Assurance Company Limited, Santam) was founded.

Initially a life and non-life company, Santam quickly split its operations, creating on 8 June 1918, a company dedicated to life and health insurance: Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Lewens Assuransie Maatskappij Beperk (South African National Life Assurance Company Limited, Sanlam), which would play a major role in South Africa's economic history.

Sanlam’s development and expansion

Despite a difficult start, the company managed to close its first financial year on a profitable note. The company continued to grow through the establishment of new entities, acquisitions, and expansion outside the local market.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Santam remained Sanlam’s majority shareholder. It was not until 1954 that the positions were reversed. Sanlam became an independent mutual life insurance company and the majority shareholder of Santam with a 57% stake.

From the start of its activities, the Group set foot on the life and non-life markets, before expanding its activities to other financial products and services.

Birth of a giant South African insurer

After 1954, the year 1998 marked a second turning point in the history of the group. Sanlam was demutualized and listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the Namibian Stock Exchange. It changed from a mutual company to a public limited company with share capital. It was also renamed Sanlam Life Insurance Ltd (Sanlam Life).

Meanwhile, a separate entity, Sanlam Ltd, was created as the parent company of all the companies operating under the Sanlam brand. The group is thus restructured into several independent companies within a federated structure.

Santam focuses on general insurance solutions, often referred to as short-term insurance as opposed to life operations, developed by Sanlam. The latter is becoming the group's core business.

Currently, the group operates through an extensive network of intermediaries encompassing more than 3 000 brokers and 6 000 advisors.

Financial, non-financial and distribution partnerships have also been established with banks, telecommunications companies and affinity groups. This network gives the group better access to the financial markets.

Sanlam group today

At the South African level, the Sanlam Group is the market leader in the life and non-life markets. At the continental level, its position has been strengthened significantly in recent years.

The 2018 acquisition of all Saham (Morocco) companies has opened the doors to North, West and Central Africa.

Other initiatives have been undertaken in 2020 and 2021; they all aim to accelerate the group's expansion in Africa. These initiatives include:

  • The acquisition of NSIA's Malian life and non-life insurance operations,
  • The conclusion of a strategic partnership with Allianz Africa,
  • The establishment of an exclusive alliance with the telecommunications operator, MTN, for the distribution of insurance and financial products on the continent,
  • The sale of Sanlam's life and pensions business in the UK. The funds withdrawn from this cession were reinvested in Africa and certain emerging markets,
  • The transactions in the asset management business with African Rainbow Capital and ABSA Financial Services.
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