How Sanlam provides innovative insurance services for the digital age

Dale Benton
|May 18|magazine19 min read

The strategic adoption of technology in the insurance and personal finance industry is being driven by a commitment to meet and exceed customer expectations and deliver high levels of service. The industry has quickly recognised the compelling need for digital innovation as a defining and redefining factor to its success and survival.  

“Technology has always been a key part of the financial landscape,” says Hennie de Villiers, deputy CEO of Sanlam Personal Finance – the retail unit of leading African insurer Sanlam. “Yet, things have shifted significantly over the years with technology playing an increasingly important role in our day-to-day lives. This means that, as a population, we expect the same level of technological capability from an insurer as we would from a bank, telco or another service provider.”

Sanlam has, since 1918, strived to be the leader in client-centric wealth creation, management, and protection in South Africa, but it is also a global insurer with an international footprint in 30 African countries amongst others. Adept at servicing customers and with an accomplished track record, Sanlam has realised the importance of embracing technological shifts to continue to deliver and exceed its customers’ expectations.

For de Villiers, a point of departure was to consider customers’ experiences in other industries. “It is increasingly important for us to be able to compete with the best experiences our customers have elsewhere. We acknowledge that they want the same experience from insurance as they expect from their cell phone provider and their bank,” he says.

“Yet, while there is this common pursuit of digital enablement, insurance differs slightly from other industries in that our customers – even millennials – still require an element of human interaction, even as we move further away from it. So, the experience of implementing digital innovation varies across industries.”

Sanlam is driving a company-wide digital transformation that will see it fully embrace the technologies of today and tomorrow in order to deliver the most effective and seamless insurance services to modern-day customers.

Read Our Digital Report

Click Here to Read


One of the ways in which we ensure that the organisation embraces change collectively is through continuous staff engagement from the top through to every level of the business


As an insurance services provider, the company engages a number of different stakeholders, from intermediaries and internal staff through to the customer. These stakeholders will all shape and influence the company’s digital transformation, yet for de Villiers there is an elementary core goal at the heart of the business’ digital transformation strategy. “It’s about how we can make the experience for customers so simple, so enjoyable and so pain-free, that they will want to continue doing business with us.”

While Sanlam acknowledges this strategic imperative, it’s not all plain sailing as technological transformation can typically present a number of challenges, particularly to a business that’s been in operation for over a century. A key challenge has been the company’s legacy infrastructure and systems, and de Villiers contends that this challenge is probably unsurprising for an insurance provider of Sanlam’s tenure. This presents its own unique hurdles and de Villiers believes the answer to overcoming these obstacles is to place a great deal of investment in the company’s most important asset - its people.

“You’re used to doing things a certain way, but life, and most certainly business, moves so fast that we have to embrace change, experiment and take risks. This requires a change in culture,” he says. “One of the ways in which we ensure that the organisation embraces change collectively is through continuous staff engagement from the top through to every level of the business.”

See also:

  • How PBL Insurance is rewriting the rule book for Canada’s insurance brokers
  • Align: data centre solutions on the cusp of IT innovation
  • PwC fights data center cyber threats with technological knowhow
  • This approach, he feels, is crucial in order to implement technology and empower employees to open their minds to this changing landscape. It allows employees to recognise and understand their role, not only in the organisation of today, but the one of tomorrow.

    “We need to ensure that people are empowered and enabled,” he says. “Technology is complex and there is no silver bullet for us, but we have motivated and incredibly hard-working employees and so continuous engagement really brings people along.”

    With the technology conversation defined by buzzwords such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation and Data Analytics some companies may fall into a trap of investing in these technologies for the wrong reasons in order to ‘keep up’ with the industry. De Villiers recognises this and understands that in order to grow in the right direction, Sanlam has to embrace appropriate technologies. “We will always base our technology decisions on whether we believe it will have a specific strategic value for us or if it will help us to achieve a specific strategic outcome,” he says.

    To this end, Sanlam has been able to call on the invaluable support and experience of a key strategic partner in Zensar. Zensar is a leading digital solutions and technology services company that specialises in partnering with global organisations across industries on their digital transformation journey. Coupled with this, Zenzar also helps companies like Sanlam develop the internal skills needed to drive digitisation.

     “South Africa is an emerging market with growing skillsets. Zensar has done a tremendous amount of work with us in assisting to develop those critical skillsets through a number of programmes and training opportunities. This has really been a key element that has allowed us to both focus on, and enable, the technology implementation.”

    Technology and digital transformation is an ever-evolving process and Sanlam cannot rest on its laurels. It has to be mindful of the future and how the technology trends of today can and will influence the industry of tomorrow.

    Regardless of where the next shift in innovation comes from, Sanlam will continue to ensure that it provides the best possible service to its clients and customers.

    “Whatever the future holds for us, I believe it is critical for our technology adoption to be in line with our strategy,” he says. “It needs to help us to really win the battle for the customer and ensure that we engage them at a level that will make them loyal and persistent - with no desire to go anywhere else.”

    Other Companies

    SAP Retail

    SAP: Driving the digital journey for retailers


    Siemens: safe mobility solutions for smart cities

    SAP Retail

    SAP: Preparing businesses for change through innovation


    Flooid: headless commerce for a new era of retail

    CGI Nederland

    Data harvesting - key on journey to smart manufacturing

    Cerner Middle East

    Cerner: Transforming the future of digital health in Qatar


    How IBM is evolving its unique partnership with SAP

    The Harris Center for Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability

    Delivering patient care through innovation

    Save the Children

    Save the Children: An international approach to IT


    CSG: A Cloud-First Leader in Digital Transformation

    Ark Data Centres

    How Ark Data Centres delivers a unique combination of efficiency, scalability and connectivity


    The four pillars to strategic procurement and a better CX

    Epic IO

    Wireless M2M on the Edge


    Presidio: managing migration risk


    Vanarama expands tech tools to grow vehicle leasing sales


    Unit4 PSA: Driving the People Experience

    Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC)

    CHOC: Acceleration of telemedicine for paediatrics


    ChenMed: When our patients do better, we do better


    RPG puts people first in manufacturing DX


    Chayora: The gateway in and out of China

    Read the latest issue

    Click Here to Read