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Sanlam Paid R4.75 Billion in Claims in 2020

By Petrie Marx, 28 July 2021

In 2020, Sanlam Retail Affluent paid out 99% of all death and funeral claims. It paid R4.75 billion in total claims, with R3.97 billion for death and funeral claims, R398.9 million for disability, loss of income and impairment claims, and R386 million for severe illness and injury claims.

Petrie Marx, Product Actuary at Sanlam Individual Life, says the Group’s priority is to give clients the peace of mind and confidence that they and their loved ones will be covered financially during some of the most difficult moments in their lives. “COVID-19 has been an incredibly hard time for many people, and we extend our deepest condolences to those who have lost family and friends. Our priority is to be the partner our clients need. In Sanlam Retail Affluent, we paid out R458.95 million in pandemic-related claims in 2020. With the second wave, we have surpassed this significantly, and already paid out R622.66 million for COVID-19 claims in Q1 of 2021.”

The number of claims for COVID-19 fatalities in 2020 for Sanlam Retail Affluent was initially relatively low, with most COVID-19 claims being for sickness and income protection. Claims for death and funeral benefits increased to make up the majority in December 2020, January 2021 and February 2021. Following the second wave, the first three months of 2021 saw significantly more death and funeral claims, with the Retail Affluent business paying out its highest number of COVID-19 claims in any month in February 2021: R8.25 million for sickness and income protection and R422.73 million for death and funeral claims. Marx adds, “It’s clear that the second wave had a greater impact on our Retail Affluent client base. But it should be noted that Sanlam Sky and Sanlam Corporate (our employee benefits businesses) were already hit hard in wave one.”

In 2020, death claims resulting from ‘diseases of the respiratory system’ increased to 21%, from 11% in 2019. COVID-19 was also the single biggest factor behind the 60% year-on-year increase in funeral claims. The pandemic also had less obvious implications, including 60% fewer claims under the accidental death benefit. While lump-sum disability claims for mental disorders went from 8% in 2019 to 19% in 2020.

Marx says, “Aside from the increase in claims resulting from COVID-19, the main effect we saw in 2020 was a decrease in accidental claims for all benefits. This may well have been the result of the strict lockdown regulations. It was also evident in the breakdown of disability claims. COVID-19 has had a massive impact on people’s mental and financial wellbeing, although it’s difficult to make a direct link from just one year’s statistics.”

He notes that the 2020 claim statistics did not include the impact of the second wave, so Sanlam expects to see a different outcome in 2021, where lockdown laws were looser and its main client base was more affected. “There is also speculation that 2021 may see an increase in claims as a result of late diagnosis of, say, cardiovascular disease or cancer, or from people suffering from “long COVID”, but we have not yet seen this coming through in our claims.”

In total, Sanlam Retail Affluent paid R29.95 million in claims for people being booked off work for COVID-19. This hints at what absenteeism may have cost the country. With the third wave looming, Marx says it’s too early to tell whether cases will escalate rapidly before plateauing, “We’re certainly hoping for a more moderate pace, more in line with the first wave, but can’t predict it with any certainty at this stage.”

The Sanlam Retail Affluent claim statistics also made it clear that it’s imperative not to lose sight of the other main causes of severe illness in the country. “Cancer remains the main cause of severe illness claims; in the last six years, it’s accounted for 60% of all the severe illness claims paid annually. We’re also seeing trends from previous years continue, like the continued rise in breast cancer in women.”

Marx concludes that the pandemic has increased awareness of the importance of having a sound financial plan in place, should the unthinkable happen. “On our part, we will always endeavour to honour the promise we make when clients take out cover with us. We want people to be able to live with confidence, safe in the knowledge that we will help them to protect their futures and the futures of those they love.”

View the complete Sanlam Retail Affluent 2020 claim statistics.

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