Sanlam, Africa’s biggest life insurer, has appointed a former executive from its rival Old Mutual as its new CEO, replacing the retiring Ian Kirk, who spearheaded its growth strategy into the rest of Africa.

Paul Hanratty, who has been a non-executive director at Sanlam since 2017, retired as COO at its biggest rival in SA in 2016, and was also CEO of its local unit during Old Mutual’s phase as a London-listed company. 

Hanratty takes over at a time when Sanlam needs to navigate a weak economy in SA, which remains its largest market, where business and consumer confidence had plunged even before the coronavirus outbreak.

“Paul has an impressive track record having managed large financial services businesses very successfully,” Sanlam said in a statement. Hanratty may consider changes in strategy in response to “significant shifts” in the operating environment in the markets where it was operating.

Hanratty said on Tuesday that Sanlam has a sound and well-communicated strategy. “I am sure that as the environment changes management and the board will continue to adapt its strategy over time. All the building blocks are in place to create value.”

Under Kirk, the company expanded on a growth strategy of his predecessor Johan van Zyl, which saw it increase its footprint to as far as India and Malaysia. In 2018, Sanlam bought Morocco’s Saham Finances in its biggest ever acquisition, cementing its position as SA’s most valuable insurer.

Its Africa-wide expansion has come at a time when some of its rivals, including Liberty, changed their focus towards SA. Old Mutual, which had expanded largely to developed markets, returned to its SA roots in 2018, ending its London listing of almost two decades.

Hanratty is a qualified actuary and started his career at Old Mutual SA in 1984 and served as CEO there from 2006 to 2008. From 2009 to 2010 he was CEO of long-term savings, where he was responsible for the insurance and asset management businesses of Old Mutual in the US, UK, Scandinavia, Europe, SA, Africa and emerging markets.

Sanlam also appointed Abigail Mukhuba as group financial director from October. She joins from African Rainbow Minerals, which is controlled by Patrice Motsepe, Sanlam’s long-standing empowerment partner and its deputy chair.

Elias Masilela, a former CEO of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), was named non-executive chair, replacing Van Zyl, who is a joint CEO of Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital. However, Van Zyl will stay on as a non-executive director. 

Sanlam’s share price gained 4.65% to R51.09 on Tuesday, giving it a market capitalisation of just under R120bn. It has lost 35.41% since the start of 2020, compared with a 22.06% fall for the all share index and 36% loss for the life insurers index.

Update: March 31 2020 
This article has been updated with comment and financial information.
An earlier version of this article said Hanratty had been a group CEO of Old Mutual. He was CEO of Old Mutual SA.


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