November was the cruellest month for insurers — but also the month in which people most needed cover. One of the worst days of the past decade was November 9 2016, on which flash flooding hit Joburg’s eastern suburbs. About 90mm rain fell in three hours. Mutual & Federal (now called Old Mutual Insure) alone booked a loss of R150m. For Santam, June 2017 was the traumatic event as floods hit its home town, Cape Town, and it had a high market share of the assets in Knysna affected by the fires. With R64bn premium income in the first half, short-term insurance is a sizeable, and mostly well-funded, industry. In the first six months of 2017, Santam’s underwriting margin of 4.2% was less than half the 9.6% of 2015. Yet Old Mutual Insure CEO Raimund Snyders sees 4%-6% as a good margin given that 80% of its insurance is in the high-claiming motor and property books. Old Mutual Insure has lost market share. It was the top insurer 20 years ago.In any other industry, Santam CEO Lize Lambrechts...

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