We continued to demonstrate our valuable contribution to stakeholders during the first half of 2021, amidst the ongoing devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on economies and communities in all the countries in which we operate. The Group’s response to this challenging environment was guided by our purpose of empowering generations to be financially confident, secure and prosperous. This purpose-driven approach was expressed through our continuing passionate support of clients, employees and broader society over the period.
For our clients, we continued to honour our promise of being there for them during their most challenging times. Sanlam Life and Savings (SLS) paid R8 billion and Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) paid some R2 billion of gross mortality claims in the first six months of 2021, with cumulative payments of some R22 billion since the start of 2020. Santam continued to settle contingent business interruption (CBI) claims and paid R700 million to policyholders in addition to the R1 billion paid in interim relief in August 2020, bringing the total CBI payments to R1,7 billion at 31 August 2021.
The Group maintained business stability and continuity of operations during this challenging period and continues to prioritise the health and safety of our employees. Our sincere condolences go to the families of 36 Sanlam employees who have succumbed to the pandemic since its onset. To further support the wellness and development of our employees for a future-fit business, we will be implementing a hybrid working model while continuing the development of skills and culture suited to the future digital environment. An extensive virtual leadership programme was launched in the first six months of 2021, which together with ongoing culture interventions, is designed to support our readiness for a new world of work and a new way of interacting with customers.
In line with our purpose, we continue to support the upliftment of the communities in which we operate. The Group was one of the first businesses to provide vaccine access points to the public in South Africa in partnership with AfroCentric. We provided direct finance to support the South African business initiative to drive vaccine rollout in partnership with government, and we are running an extensive communication plan to encourage the public to vaccinate. The Sanlam Group is determined to do everything it can to support governments, in partnership with the private sector, to roll out vaccines as the most effective long-term approach to tackling the pandemic.
The Sanlam Group’s sustainability focus is demonstrated in how we utilise our financial resilience to create value for our stakeholders and the wider society. This is achieved through extending the benefits of financial services as widely as possible in Africa and India, ensuring investment management decisions are robustly informed by a strong ESG framework, and that activities of the Group support a number of development goals which are crucial to our communities of stakeholders.
The first six months of 2021 has seen the continued deployment of funds to support the recovery of economies post the pandemic, focus on investment into our climate fund and the announcement of an InsurTech strategic initiative in partnership with MTN, aimed at helping Sanlam attain its goal of reaching 50 million customers by 2025.
Robust growth in operating profits. Net result from financial services increased by 16% (22% in constant currency) in 2020 but remained 9% lower than 2019 (7% lower in constant currency). Net result from financial services is 5% higher than 2019 on a comparable basis after adjusting for one-off impacts and structural changes.
Exceptional recovery in VNB which was 94% higher than 2020 (98% in constant currency) and 37% higher than 2019. The VNB margin of 2,82% exceeded the comparable periods in both 2020 and 2019.
Substantial growth in new business volumes which are 12% higher (13% in constant currency) than 2020 and 57% higher than 2019. The COVID-19 environment again emphasised the importance of appropriate insurance cover and long-term investment for retirement and unforeseen circumstances.
Net client cash flows (net fund inflows) of R38 billion were 13% (16% in constant currency) and 62% higher than 2020 and 2019 respectively. Strong performance from the Sanlam Pan Africa General Insurance (SPA GI) business. The SPA GI portfolio recorded a net insurance margin of 20,6% (2020: 3,6%), driven by a significant recovery in investment return earned on insurance funds and an underwriting margin of 5,1%.
Solid performance from the Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) life businesses. SEM life insurance new business volumes increased by 34% (47% in constant currency) and net value of new life business (VNB) is 85% (105% in constant currency) and 40% higher than 2020 and 2019 respectively, with the Pan-Africa Life (SPA Life) as well as India and Malaysia operations contributing strongly.
Adjusted Return on Group Equity Value (RoGEV) of 6,2% for the six months was below the Group’s hurdle rate of 6,6%. The strong contribution from new business and positive persistency in the covered business was more than offset by the impact of COVID-19 on risk experience and the write-down of the UK life business to net realisable value.
six month return
2,06% in 2020