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Motsepe Foundation, Sanlam contribute R1bn to fight Covid-19 disaster

Sanlam CEO Ian Kirk discusses how the initiative is working, some targeted areas, the assurance of proper governance, and the handling of insurance claims.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Over the weekend the Motsepe Foundation and its associated companies, which include Sanlam and African Rainbow Capital, announced via a virtual press conference that they would be putting up R1 billion to aid in the fight against the impacts of the coronavirus. The foundation indicated a keenness to assist those in our society who are particularly more vulnerable. The foundation is going to be spending some of the funds on essential items like sanitisers, disinfectants and personal protection equipment gear to help in the healthcare system.

Read: Motsepe Foundation and Sanlam pledge R1bn to fight Covid-19 crisis

Well, to tell us more about what we can expect from this initiative, I’m joined on the line by Ian Kirk, the CEO of insurance company Sanlam. Thanks very much for joining us, Ian. I mentioned a few things that you’re going to be spending your resources on – sanitisers, personal protection equipment and so on. But just tell us where else the funding will be targeted, specifically as it pertains to helping those who are less fortunate.

IAN KIRK: In the early stages – and we need to get this going very quickly, given where we are with this pandemic – it will be into the areas of medical supplies, into the areas of testing, into supporting handwashing arrangements, particularly in the in the rural areas and in the less fortunate areas. That’s really where we are going to get going with our partners in the initial stage.

NOMPU SIZIBA: I see, as you talk about partners, you guys are going to be working with a number of different parties. They include NGOs, faith-based organisations and government, among others. Will that be you distributing funds to them and then actioning your mandates in their areas of specialisation? How will it work, and how will you ensure that delivery has occurred, and that proper governance has been observed?

IAN KIRK: Look, on Sanlam side, and also with our partners in the Motsepe Foundation, we have our own foundation, so we’ve been doing this for quite some years, so we know how to do it to make sure that the money is effectively spent, and it goes to the right places. So we’ll use those processes, as will our partners.

And it’s really about partnership, both within all the organisations that are closely associated with Patrice Motsepe, who’ll work with them, and these other groupings. And then using the processes that we’ve already got in place to ensure, as you say, the money is well spent and ends up in the right places.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Indeed. We know that this is not a competition, but we have heard that the other billionaires who’ve put money forward are going to be focusing on things like small business. Will some of your funding be also focused on small businesses, as we know that many are likely to be hard-hit because of the lockdown?

IAN KIRK: Absolutely. As you said, one of the really difficult areas is small businesses and we need to make sure that we do support small businesses in this process. You’ll be aware, of course, that there are many initiatives that are underway at the moment to deal with this – whether it’s the banks, whether it’s us as Asisa members, whether it’s the fiscal stimulus package.

Read: All the Covid-19 relief announced by SA banks so far

So I think there’s a widespread recognition that the pressure’s really going to come on small business.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Now you’re urging other corporates to step up to the plate. From your conversations and what you’ve heard, do you get the sense that other people are going to come to the party?

IAN KIRK: I do indeed. We’ve been around for 101 years, and we really reckon that it’s the right time for us now to step up to the plate. We are giving substantial amounts and of course we are encouraging others, all of us, to do the same. There’s a massive, massive need.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Ian, just as an aside, speaking to you as the CEO of Sanlam, what happens in a situation like this, where you’re going to be getting insurance claims for business interruption and so on and so forth? How are insurance companies likely to manage this? Will you have to declare something like force majeure, because how on earth would you be able to satisfy every claim in a situation that’s beyond your control, so to speak?

IAN KIRK: Well, in the insurance market there are two areas. There’s the mortality risk, which we run in Sanlam, and then there’s the risk in the general insurance business, which is claims like the ones you’re indicated around interruption of business.

On the mortality side we’re very diverse, and we hold substantial reserves, including pandemic reserves. So I think we are well structured to be able to withhold that.

On the general insurance side, it’s not just a case that you should go out and say, we can’t help. Of course there are conditions in the policies that we have to adhere to. We have to ensure the organisations are secure, and we’ll do that. But we will do what we can to make sure that we commit our responsibilities as insurers to the market.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Super. And then you said that you’re going to get cracking quite quickly with the fund. When are you guys beginning the work?

IAN KIRK: Oh, we are working now, let me tell you, on a daily basis. Our people are up and going, and also we’re in it with our partners. So the need is now, and that’s one of the reasons why we are working within the structures that Patrice Motsepe announced, so that we can get going quickly. So it’s every day now.

NOMPU SIZIBA: Absolutely. Alright. Well, all the very best with the initiative. Thank you very much for joining us, Ian.

IAN KIRK: And thank you.

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