100 years of bespoke solutions

3 min read 14 June 2018

One of the hallmarks of Santam is its enduring run of outstanding performance. Along its 100-year journey, it has assembled a diverse and bespoke range of insurance solutions through its Specialist Business unit.

Quinten Matthew

Executive Head of Santam Specialist Business

Having one of the longest horizons of any insurance company, Santam’s centennial anniversary this May shows that its core purpose is as pertinent today as it ever was: to understand what is important to its clients, the risks they face, and to provide them with peace of mind that comes from knowing that they will be put back in the position they were before any loss occurred.

This is what the Santam philosophy of “insurance good and proper” is about, and one of the reasons that 85 of the top 100 JSE-listed companies trust Santam to protect their businesses.

The insurance giant is also one of the most publicly traded companies on the JSE since it listed in 1964. Its strong investment and underwriting results are evidenced by the fact that Santam has always turned a profit.

Historically, Santam’s offerings only related to personal and commercial lines. That is, until 1999, when it purchased Guardian National, an underwriting management agency (UMA) model through Stangen.

The underwriting managers that were absorbed into Santam through this transaction culminated in Specialist

Business, a unit that today comprises 28 UMAs and divisions, and offers over 75 insurance solutions.

Strong global expansion

“In a marketplace as enormous as insurance is globally, sustaining and growing a diversified portfolio is no mean feat, and Santam is the most diversified among its peers,” says Quinten Matthew, Executive Head of Santam Specialist Business.

Diversification into global markets was largely generated through a partnership with Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM), which manifested in a general insurer footprint for Santam in 32 countries in Africa, India, South-East Asia and China.

“No other insurer has the footprint on the African continent that we do. We pride ourselves on being a strong continental based general insurer as well as remaining heavily invested in our base, South Africa.

About 10 percent of our premiums are now being generated outside the country, and five percent outside the continent. It is our strategic goal to grow this contribution significantly,” adds Matthew.

A recent cooperative agreement with a new partner in Africa, Sompo International Holdings, which owns the second largest insurer in Japan, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc, is an example of how Specialist Business supports Santam’s long-term strategy to position itself as the preferred general insurer for multinationals in Africa, as well as for those expanding outside their continental base.

Unrivalled proficiency

Understanding the different markets and environments falls to the underwriting managers and divisions within Specialist Business that will be managing the Santam growth profile.

“They have gained an enormous amount of experience across a wide range of industries – from corporate property, engineering, liability, aviation, marine, agriculture, hospitality, travel and structured insurance to alternative risk transfer and heavy haulage,” confirms Matthew. “Between them, they have unrivalled technical proficiency and skills, including the likes of attorneys, financial analysts, and those recognised in their field for their specialist knowledge, such as engineers and pilots.”

Specialist Business’s thorough understanding of clients’ unique insurance needs enables it to customise risk management solutions for the exposures inherent in each particular industry, as well as for individual clients who have specific needs. It does this by qualifying all aspects of the risk, including distribution channels, the volume of the marketspace, data collection, capital and earnings, financial flexibility, and enterprise risk management structures.

“There is a basket of factors that need to be unpacked so that we can comprehensively understand the insurance needs,” explains Matthew. “We also have to factor in the risks on the ground within a specific industry, region and country, as well as the regulatory framework that applies to both the insurer and the insured.”

Insuring the future

There is a plethora of emerging trends that introduce new and unique business models, including unpredictable weather patterns, innovation and, principally, information technology. These have triggered an increased demand for specialist insurance and bespoke products.

Matthew explains that to respond effectively, it is important to understand the interconnectedness of things, and the way technology is shaping business – bringing in new choices with their own peculiar risks and policy compliance: smart homes, selfdriving cars, artificial intelligence, drones, and blockchain, to mention a few.

‘What clients are counting on is for insurance to respond to new-technology risks they may be exposed to. The ability to purchase cover specific to such threats goes hand in hand with risk management, and providing bespoke insurance solutions is what our specialist underwriters thrive on,” explains Matthew.

“What we have learned in our 100 years of existence is that insurance has no value if policyholders cannot trust their insurer to be there for them in their time of need. At Santam, we are in the business of rescuing policyholders when a disaster strikes – paying claims with efficiency and urgency. That is what insurance good and proper is about,” Matthew concludes.