History of Sanlam

Sanlam has achieved much since it was founded in 1918. Read more about the Group’s rich and varied history.

Brief historical overview

In December 1917 a small group of Afrikaners and a Scot met in the Royal Hotel in Cape Town:

Charlie G. Fichardt: Bloemfontein businessman and MP for Ladybrand (Chairman)
Willie A. Hofmeyr:   Attorney
Charlie R. Louw:   Attorney
Pieter A. Malan:  Attorney
Fred H. Dormehl:   Former insurance man
Antoon F. Benning:  Prospector and master builder
Alfred McDowell:  Scottish banker and insurance accountant

Hofmeyr, Dormehl and Malan were also founders of Nasionale Pers.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the founding of an insurance company that would attract capital through policyholders' premiums.

Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Trust en Assuransie Maatskappij (The South African National Trust and Assurance Company), Santam, was registered on 28 March 1918, with Hofmeyr as chairman. However, before Santam was even registered it was decided to convert the life assurance department into a separate company to ensure that long-term profits, payable to policyholders would be separated from short-term profits payable to shareholders.

The Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Lewens Assuransie Maatskappij Beperk (The South African National Life Assurance Company Limited), Sanlam, was registered on 8 June 1918. Sanlam, the subsidiary, consequently became the spearhead of the operation, while Santam remained focused on short-term insurance.

Early years and development

The early years were tough. The great depression after the Anglo-Boer war (now known as the South African war) and the Spanish flu that broke out at the end of 1918 brought heavy claims and had a severe impact on business. Despite this, Sanlam showed a small profit at the end of its first year and continued to grow consistently from there.

During its first decade, Sanlam's income came mainly from the rural areas. In the late twenties it ventured more actively into the cities.

  • In 1935 Sanlam bought the shares of the life assurance company African Homes Trust (now Metropolitan Life) from Santam.
  • In 1940 Federale Volksbeleggings (FVB) was registered, giving policy owners a stake in a large number of commercial and industrial companies and providing them with the opportunity to contribute towards broad-based development, to their benefit, but also to the benefit of SA and all its people. The foundation of FVB eventually led to the foundation of home-grown industrial and mining giant Gencor in the nineteen-fifties.
  • In 1946 Bonuskor was registered for the re-investment of policy bonuses, allowing Sanlam to mobilise capital for the development of Afrikaner businesses.
  • Santam remained the controlling shareholder, but after protracted negotiations in the 1950’s became an independent mutual life assurance company on 8 March 1954, as well as the largest single shareholder in Santam.
  • In 1960 Sankor was formed to undertake further development projects when Bonuskor's capital totalled R10 million.


During the nineteen-nineties Sanlam's focus gradually shifted from life insurance to providing a broader range of financial products and services. In 1998 Sanlam demutualised, listing on the JSE Securities Exchange as well as the Namibian Stock Exchange on 30 November 1998. This changed Sanlam from a mutual entity into a public company with a share capital, namely Sanlam Life Insurance Ltd. At the same time a separate company, Sanlam Ltd, was installed as the parent company of the Sanlam group of businesses. The Group was also restructured into several independent businesses within a federal business structure.

Economic empowerment highlights

  • In 1940 Federale Volksbeleggings (FVB) was formed to pave the way for Afrikaner investment in business enterprises.
  • In 1946 Bonuskor was registered for the re-investment of policy bonuses, allowing Sanlam to mobilise capital for the development of Afrikaner businesses.
  • In 1960 Sankor was formed to undertake further large development projects when Bonuskor's capital totaled R10 million.
  • In 1985 Sankorp was formed to undertake major development projects.
  • In 1993 Sanlam spearheaded Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) by transferring effective control of Metropolitan Life (Metlife) from Sankorp to the black shareholders of Metlife Investment Holdings (Methold), a black-controlled company (85% Black policy-holders at the time), now known as New Africa Investments Limited (Nail).
  • In 1996 Sanlam was the first company in Southern Africa to launch a development fund with a view of financing empowerment-related projects (providing start-up capital of R100 million).
  • In 1998, with Sanlam's demutualisation, more than 2.2 million South Africans were given the opportunity to share in the Group's future. An estimated 32% were Black shareholders and Blacks held approximately 20% of the shares (direct shareholding) at the time. Sanlam also paid R278 million into the government's Umsobomvu Fund for job-creation.
  • On 20 August 2002, Sanlam was one of the companies who committed to the development of a BEE charter for the financial sector at the Nedlac Financial Sector Summit. The Sanlam Board of directors approved Sanlam's BEE policy on 4 December 2002.
  • In 2003, Sanlam announced a BEE transaction with empowerment consortium Ubuntu-Botho. This transaction was a significant milestone in Sanlam's history, whereby Ubuntu-Botho acquired an initial 10% equity holding in Sanlam.

Our logo through the years

In the past, there wasn’t really uniformity with regard to the use of the Sanlam logo. Different logos were used, sometimes more than one at the same time. For example, the official seal of the company was initially used as a logo, soon followed by first a springbok head, and later a stylised drawing of the 1932 head office, superimposed on a map of South Africa.

In December 1932 the shield-design by TO Honiball, in conjunction with Prof. Blommaert of Stellenbosch, was introduced. The four birds (provinces) being fed by their mother symbolised support and protection. The stylised, flying birds were symbolic of speed and progress, and the springbok represented South Africa.

With Sanlam's 21st birthday in 1939, the logo was adapted. With few minor changes this remained in use until 1953 when the head office relocated to Bellville. A new logo was introduced – the word "Sanlam" on a white or black background.

During 1968 the "S-Shield" was introduced: a shield for protection and security. In 1970, Sanlam adopted blue as its corporate colour and this became the colour of the shield. Blue was felt to be a quiet, cool colour that could be associated with a trustworthy financial institution.

The present-day logo – of two nurturing hands – was first adopted in 1973. It portrays the protective hands of Sanlam's financial expertise, shielding the world of the company's clients. The pointed fingers represent powerful growth and the solid base, stability. Initially it was used with or without "Sanlam" written underneath, but in 1991 the aforementioned use was standardised. Since 1998, each business unit in the Group has added its name where more specific client focus was required.

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