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Offbeat – 14 March 2014

Loss of human diversity is extremely perilous and becoming more so by the year as global exposure becomes more pervasive. Loss of that diversity is loss of the ability to think about and see things in different ways.

AC/DC showed up on Facebook, in an orchestral version. Hurray! Let me qualify that. I was never a fan of the band, so that was an ironic ‘hurry’. I also detest orchestral versions of rock songs, so let’s make that a double ironic ‘hurray’ with bells on.
The first few times I saw the post, I just ignored it. Then it started cropping up everywhere, like ants in an open sugar pot in the rainy season. I didn’t open it, but I felt the accusatory virtual glare of my friends for not enjoying it with them. Sometimes life is tough.

But wait! There’s more. This is only the first round. If you are a Facebook resident, you will know the phenomenon of the photo that keeps on reappearing every few months, because somebody just got the joke now, or remembered how funny it was and wanted to share the laughter with us yet again. I guess AC/DC will be showing up again sometime in the next year or so. And don’t worry if you miss Grumpy Cat. That cynicism will show up again as well. So will the baby with the beer mug.
Now imagine the number of pictures contracting, as more and more people begin posting the same stuff from all over the world. Facebook is a type of community, and belonging to a community tends to move people into similar types of behaviour and attitudes.
How did I get to this point? I was thinking about diversity. A lot is said about the need for plant and animal diversity, but humans need diversity as well.
Humans are finding uniformity far easier than ever. It’s the result of near instantaneous global communication. That communication covers just about everything from behaviour and attitudes to culture and the same old boring Facebook posts that make you want to unfriend people for the sole purpose of seeing less neon postcards extolling the virtues of alcoholism and not giving a fork.
The idea of losing human diversity is something worth thinking about.
Different people have different ways of thinking, at least up until this point. Two phenomena that match, for instance, an approach to breakfast, or an approach to healing are reflections in a distorted mirror. What the one reflects back shows the other what might be, and possibly some imperfections.
Take the case of breakfast for instance. The traditional European breakfast might be eggs on toast and a bowl of cereal. That same breakfast, in the Mediterranean, might be a bowl of salad. Both cultures can take something from one another, if not health in the European conception, then help for a hangover in the Mediterranean.
What about approaches to mental health. A volatile Italian could easily be mistaken for someone prone to hysterics in the USA. Someone with the typical German bent of being bureaucratically perfect, even in recreation, could be mistaken for OCD in the USA. Yet the question has to be asked, is the American way entirely healthy? Now what about music, art, stories, legends, myths, religions and tribal knowledge?
Loss of human diversity is extremely perilous and becoming more so by the year as global exposure becomes more pervasive. Loss of that diversity is loss of the ability to think about and see things in different ways. And the laughter from hearing the same joke umpteen times gets more and more strained until it almost becomes unbearable. Quite a lot has been said and written about soft power, the way nations influence one another with friendly spending and expensive projects that flatter and sometimes help the recipients. Sharing of attitudes and export of knowledge, whether appropriate or not, is far more powerful. There’s an economy to it as well.
The nation which produces the most messaging and makes available the most knowledge will dominate. The transaction is the resource to produce the knowledge in return for belief and acculturation. If you don’t believe in it, if you want to preserve some vestige of yourself, one simple step begins the process of self-preservation. Use a social network to express your own opinions. Don’t just blindly repost AC/DC for cellos.

About The Author

Sanlam 2018 Annual Results

7 March 2019


Sanlam’s 2018 annual results provides testimony to its resilience amid challenging operating conditions and negative investment markets

Sanlam today announced its operational results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2018. The Group made significant progress in strategic execution during 2018. This included the acquisition of the remaining 53% stake in SAHAM Finances, the largest transaction concluded in the Group’s 100-year history, and the approval by Sanlam shareholders of a package of Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) transactions that will position the Group well for accelerated growth in its South African home market.

Operational results for 2018 included 14% growth in the value of new life insurance business (VNB) on a consistent economic basis and more than R2 billion in positive experience variances, testimony to Sanlam’s resilience in difficult times.

The Group relies on its federal operating model and diversified profile in dealing with the challenging operating environment, negative investment markets and volatile currencies. Management continues to focus on growing existing operations and extracting value from recent corporate transactions to drive enhanced future growth.

The negative investment market returns and higher interest rates in a number of markets where the Group operates had a negative impact on growth in operating earnings and some other key performance indicators. This was aggravated by weak economic growth in South Africa and Namibia and internal currency devaluations in Angola, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Substantial growth in Santam’s operating earnings (net result from financial services) and satisfactory growth by Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) and Sanlam Corporate offset softer contributions from Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) and Sanlam Investment Group (SIG).

Key features of the 2018 annual results include:

Net result from financial services increased by 4% compared to the same period in 2017;

Net value of new covered business up 8% to R2 billion (up 14% on a consistent economic basis);

Net fund inflows of R42 billion compared to R37 billion in 2017;

Adjusted Return on Group Equity Value per share of 19.4% exceeded the target of 13.0%; and

Dividend per share of 312 cents, up 8%.

Sanlam Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ian Kirk said: “We are satisfied with our performance in a challenging operating environment. We will continue to focus on managing operations prudently and diligently executing on our strategy to deliver sustainable value to all our stakeholders. The integration of SAHAM Finances is progressing well. In addition, Sanlam shareholders approved the package of B-BBEE transactions, including an equity raising, at the extraordinary general meeting held on 12 December 2018. Our plan to implement these transactions this year remains on track.”

Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) net result from financial services declined by 5%, largely due to the impact of new growth initiatives and dampened market conditions. Excluding the new initiatives, SPF’s contribution was 1% down on 2017 due to the major impact that the weak equity market performance in South Africa had on fund-based fee income.

SPF’s new business sales increased by 4%, an overall satisfactory result under challenging conditions. Sanlam Sky’s new business increased by an exceptional 71%. Strong growth of 13% in the traditional individual life channel was augmented by the Capitec Bank credit life new business recognised in the first half of 2018, and strong demand for the new Capitec Bank funeral product. The Recurring premium and Strategic Business Development business units also achieved strong growth of 20%, supported by the acquisition of BrightRock in 2017. Glacier new business grew marginally by 1%. Primary sales onto the Linked Investment Service Provider (LISP) platform improved by 5%, an acceptable result given the pressure on investor confidence in the mass affluent market. This was however, offset by lower sales of wrap funds and traditional life products.

The strong growth in new business volumes at Sanlam Sky had a major positive effect on SPF’s VNB growth, which increased by 7% (14% on a comparable basis).

Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) grew its net result from financial services by 14%. Excluding the impact of corporate activity, earnings were marginally up on 2017 (up 8% excluding the increased new business strain).

New business volumes at SEM increased by 20%. Namibia performed well, increasing new business volumes by 22% despite weak economic conditions. Both life and investment new business grew strongly. Botswana underperformed with the main detractor from new business growth being the investment line of business, which declined by 24%. This line of business is historically more volatile in nature.

The new business growth in the Rest of Africa portfolio was 68% largely due to corporate activity relating to SAHAM Finances, with the East Africa portfolio underperforming.

The Indian insurance businesses continued to perform well, achieving double-digit growth in both life and general insurance in local currency. The Malaysian businesses are finding some traction after a period of underperformance, increasing their overall new business contribution by 3%. New business production is not yet meeting expectations, but the mix of business improved at both businesses.

SEM’s VNB declined by 3% (up 6% on a consistent economic basis and excluding corporate activity). The relatively low growth on a comparable basis is largely attributable to the new business underperformance in East Africa.

Sanlam Investment Group’s (SIG) overall net result from financial services declined by 6%, attributable to lower performance fees at the third party asset manager in South Africa, administration costs incurred for system upgrades in the wealth management business and lower earnings from equity-backed financing transactions at Sanlam Specialised Finance. The other businesses did well to grow earnings, despite the pressure on funds under management due to lower investment markets.

New business volumes declined by 13% mainly due to market volatility and low investor confidence in South Africa. Institutional new inflows remained weak for the full year, while retail inflows also slowed down significantly after a more positive start to the year. The international businesses, UK, attracted strong new inflows (up 57%).

Sanlam Corporate’s net result from financial services increased by 4%, with the muted growth caused by a continuation of high group risk claims experience. Mortality and disability claims experience weakened further in the second half of the year, which is likely to require more rerating of premiums in 2019. The administration units turned profitable in 2018, a major achievement. The healthcare businesses reported satisfactory double-digit growth in earnings, while the Absa Consultants and Actuaries business made a pleasing contribution of R39 million.

New business volumes in life insurance more than doubled, reflecting an exceptional performance. Single premiums grew by 109%, while recurring premiums increased by a particularly satisfactory 56%.

The good growth in recurring and single premium business, combined with modelling improvements, supported a 64% (71% on a comparable economic basis) increase in the cluster’s VNB contribution.

Following a year of major catastrophe events in 2017, Santam experienced a relatively benign claims environment in 2018. Combined with acceptable growth in net earned premiums, it contributed to a 37% increase in gross result from financial services (41% after tax and non-controlling interest). The conventional insurance book achieved an underwriting margin of 9% in 2018 (6% in 2017).

As at 31 December 2018, discretionary capital amounted to a negative R3.7 billion before allowance for the planned B-BBEE share issuance. A number of capital management actions during 2018 affected the balance of available discretionary capital, including the US$1 billion (R13 billion) SAHAM Finances transaction. Cash proceeds from the B-BBEE share issuance will restore the discretionary capital portfolio to between R1 billion and R1.5 billion depending on the final issue price within the R74 to R86 price range approved by shareholders.

Looking forward, the Group said economic growth in South Africa would likely remain weak in the short to medium term future, and would continue to impact efforts to accelerate organic growth. The outlook for economic growth in other regions where the Group operates is more promising. Recent acquisitions such as the SAHAM transaction should also support operational performance going forward.

“We remain focused on executing our strategy. We are confident that we have the calibre of management and staff to prudently navigate the anticipated challenges going forward,” Mr Kirk concluded.

Details of the results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2018 are available at