The country's best kept secret - Santam and their direct channel

08 August 2006 Angelo Coppola

FA News prides itself on having at least one finger on the pulse when it comes to the life offices, and the other players in the financial services sector, but we do slip up sometimes.

It appears that Santam has been operating a direct to consumer channel 'for some time' now, according to their CEO Steffen Gilbert. In fact they write about R200m worth of premiums per year.

According to Gilbert most of their advertising mentions this fact. The pay-off line in some of their advertising reads:"... Call Santam or your broker... " We will always accept direct business, but our preferred source of business is via the intermediary channel.

Gilbert says that there is definitely a place for this channel in South Africa. He goes on to say that their call centre can handle 99% of the calls they receive, and they only handle personal lines. And for those that they can't handle there is a process to resolve them internally. No calls are referred.

In terms of the cost of acquisition and which channel is more cost effective for them Gilbert confirms that they run this as a service to customer and prospects. It's run as part of their general call centre infrastructure.

He says that they don't cost it separately. "My guess is that because it is small it may be less cost efficient than if it was done on a larger scale but at the same time, because it doesn't advertise in its own right, this would bring down the cost, " says Gilbert.

So does the call centre do outbound sales calls? Gilbert says not as a rule, but they have in the past handled a couple of campaigns, although this is not a main focus of theirs.

And perhaps the burning question as to whether their call centre operators are FAIS compliant and fit and proper, Gilbert confirms that the call centre operators are so.

Editor's thoughts:
* It just goes to show how unaware I am of the advertising messaging.
* I am not alone in thinking that Santam only worked through brokers. We received several calls yesterday asking whether we were aware of their direct business.

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