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In 1917, six Afrikaaners and a Scot met at the Royal Hotel in Cape Town where they discussed, presumably over brandy and cigars, the formation of a truly South African insurance company.

The men, who were all successful in their own right, were Willie A. Hofmeyr, Fred H. Dormehl, Antoon F. Benning, Pieter A. Malan, Charlie R. Louw, Charlie G. Fichardt and Alfred McDowell.

The gentlemen agreed that the new insurance company would attract capital in the form of insurance premiums payable by its policyholders.

And so on March 28th 1918, Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Trust en Assuransie Maatskappij or Santam for short, was officially registered, with Hofmeyr at the helm.

The founders cleverly converted the company's life assurance department into a separate company and in so doing ensured that all of Santam's long-term profits, payable to its policyholders remained separate to the short-term profits payable to its shareholders.

This meant that Santam focused solely on providing comprehensive short-term insurance coverage, while the newly formed subsidiary called The Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Lewens Assuransie Maatskappij Beperk, or Sanlam for short, became the operation's spearhead.

Between the great depression experienced by South Africa following the end of the Boer War and the deadly outbreak of Spanish flu by the end of 1918, Sanlam's business was hard hit as the insurance claims poured in.

However, despite operating under these poor economic and trying conditions, Sanlam still managed to show a small profit by the end of its first year and continued to be consistent in its profitably going forward.

During its first 10 years in business, Sanlam attracted its clients from rural areas predominantly but thereafter began to increasingly seek out business in more urban areas.

In the early1950's, Sanlam became an independent mutual life assurance company and the biggest single shareholder in Santam. In the 1990's, Sanlam began to slowly shift its focus from life insurance to a wider range of financial services and products.

As a result, Sanlam demutualised in 1998, thus paving the way for a listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange Securities Exchange, as well as on the Namibian Stock Exchange, turning Sanlam into a public company.

Known today as Sanlam Life Insurance Ltd, Sanlam Ltd oversees the Sanlam group of businesses.

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3/14/2010 7:01:09 AM
Sunday, March 14, 2010

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