Sanlam was started as a co-operatibe insurance company, with products designed for the poor and a distribution model utilising local representatives. These representatives sold the Sanlam products in rural areas, but also provided client services and support. This created the opportunity for many people in rural areas to start businesses as representatives (agents) that contributed to the development of the region. The Sanlam products encouraged saving, with many secondary benefits and lastly, the assets raised through these long-term savings products were invested in local industry. In this way much infrastructure was built and large and famous South African companies were founded with investments collected through the premiums of relatively poor people.
I find many similarities with the current roll-outs of mobile money for the unbanked in emerging markets:
- The distribution of the product through agents in rutral areas
- Getting subscribers to effectively save by changing their financial behaviour
- Converting cash into electronic assets that can be invested in industry.