The Power of Your Life: The Sanlam Century of Insurance Empowerment, 1918-2018

ISBN : 9780198817758

Grietjie Verhoef
416 Pages
189 x 246 mm
Pub date
Oct 2018
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This book explores a century of business development of The South African Life Assurance Company, from a specific local focus to a national conglomerate expanding into global insurance markets. Established as a strategic vehicle to address Afrikaner economic marginalization and abject poverty at the beginning of the twentieth century, Sanlam has displayed both path dependence and a dynamic adaptability to complex changing contexts to become a global player. The strategic convergence of economic empowerment through the mobilization of savings into insurance products, as well as Afrikaner nationalism, assisted this growth.

Sanlam has played an a-typical role in the economic empowerment of an ethnic entity through extensive investments into the industrializing South African economy. This strategic diversion created operational limitations that were only resolved early in the twenty-first century. As globalization, financial deregulation, and weakened Afrikaner political and social hegemony manifested, strategic change management relied on the path dependence of empowerment strategies to address new markets with similar needs to those of the early stakeholder market of 1918. The former mutual life office demutualized operations to become a diversified financial services group of companies operating across almost the entire African continent, as well as in India, Malaysia, and the UK. This volume presents a business history of strategic management of an insurance enterprise, and its transformation from a defined cultural context into an international empowerment strategy through innovation on all levels of business operation and organization.

This book is an Open Access publication, available online under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.


1 Growing opportunity on the African soil
2 Setting down the footprint: From war to war, 1919-1945
3 Forty years: Protection, isolation, and diversification, 1945-1985
4 Searching the soul: Whereto Sanlam? Powerful conglomerate to 1997
5 Managing Change: Diversification and transformation, 1993-2003
6 Affirming the roots: Sanlam from South Africa for South Africa and beyond, 2003-2013
7 Wealthsmiths - A century later

About the author: 

Grietjie Verhoef is Professor in Economic and Business History, University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Her doctoral thesis on the History of Nedbank, 1945-1973, was the beginning of research into the development of the South African financial services sector, from informal savings organisations (ROSCAS), to community banks and the highly concentrated South African banking sector. Her research on the development of Afrikaner business penetration ultimately directed the focus towards the life office started by a handful Afrikaner professionals - Sanlam. She is also the author of The History of Business in Africa.

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