Sanlam is a juggernaut that writes more than R220bn in new business every year. And under Ian Kirk, a former PwC partner, it does so in a sustainable manner: it has a return on group equity value (net worth as adjusted by actuaries) of 18.2%, ahead of its entire peer group, and is assisted by the strong underwriting management of its subsidiary, Santam. Its new business margin of 2.46% on its SA life business shines next to the dismal 0.7% for Liberty and MMI. "Among our strategic pillars are responsible capital allocation and resilience through diversification," says Kirk. The group has met its target of the SA nine-year bond plus 4% since the 2008 global financial crisis. "But there are still areas in which we need to close the gap, such as entry-level life [insurance], third-party asset management, employee benefits and health," he says.

Unlike some of its peer group, none of Sanlam’s businesses are in intensive care. Of its five pillars — Sanlam Personal Finance, Santam, E...

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