In December 1917, a small group of Afrikaners and a Scotsman met in the Royal Hotel in Cape Town to discuss the formation of a company which would later prove to have a major impact on South Africa's economic history.
Sanlam was registered on 8 June 1918 as the Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Lewens Assuransie Maatskappij Beperk. The first share register recorded the name of each shareholder.
In 1922 Sanlam introduced the first disability cover and income protection in South Africa. The first claim was paid in 1924 to AR Helsden, a railway worker who lost his eyesight in an accident.
Since its early years Sanlam has placed a strong emphasis on staff communication. The first in-house magazine, Die Sanlam-Fakkel, with a striking cover featuring a horseman, a flaming torch and the corporate shield, launched in December 1932.
Santam remained the controlling shareholder until 1954 when Sanlam became an independent mutual life assurance company, as well as the largest single shareholder in Santam.
Sanlam was the first investment company to implement leaseback and was for a long time South Africa’s largest developer of shopping centres. Land was reclaimed at Roggebaai to build the Sanlam Centre, which at the time of its official opening in 1962 was the tallest building in Africa.
In 1968 Sanlam turned 50 and the logo design took another new turn when a shield symbolising protection and security, featuring the letter ‘S’ for Sanlam, was introduced.
The high-profile launch of the One Policy in 1985 turned South Africa’s life assurance market on its head. The product’s flexibility and multiple payment options were hugely popular. It was regarded as being in a class of its own as policyholders could convert from any existing policy to the One Policy.
Sanlam made its mark on the globe, becoming the first South African financial institution to enable offshore client investments when Sanlam Unit Trust (now Sanlam Collective Investments) established OptiRandtrust.
In the largest initial public offering in the history of South Africa at the time, Sanlam demutualised to list on the JSE Securities Exchange and the Namibian Stock Exchange as Sanlam Life Insurance Limited. After demutualisation, Sanlam Namibia began to conduct business as a full insurer.
Still regarded as one of the country’s most successful broad-based empowerment (B-BBEE) transactions, the contract between Sanlam and Ubuntu-Botho was ahead of its time, having been forged before BEE codes were introduced.
The company launched Sanlam iTrade, the first online trading portal in the life insurance industry.
Sanlam LifePower was introduced in 2008 as the first comprehensive personal cover solution for people living with HIV, on whose behalf the red ribbon is a universal symbol of awareness and support.
Sanlam launched Go Cover, a first-of-its-kind mobile app that allows clients to buy accidental injury and death cover on demand for periods from 24 hours to 30 days.
In June 2017 Sanlam Sky Solutions launched South Africa’s first WhatsApp drama series to promote funeral insurance. Uk’shona Kwelanga (meaning ‘The Sunset’ and also ‘The Death of Langa’) was a collaboration with top scriptwriter and playwright Bongi Ndaba.
Today, Sanlam is a diversified financial services provider with an extensive product offering. The Group consistently grew its local and international footprint and now has a presence in 33 African countries, India, Malaysia and selected developed markets.