How Edge Growth and Sanlam are building South Africa’s SME sector, one SME at a time


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South Africa’s economy was dependent on its wealth of mineral resources for the longest time, but this is changing as the tertiary sectors of wholesale, tourism, finance and more have begun to overtake the stagnating primary sectors in terms of paving the way to a more sustainable economic climate.

This is why, when the ASISA ESD Fund, managed by Edge Growth, was approached by Sanlam in 2013 to help develop an ESD strategy that would generate the widest possible benefit for the insurance, investment and financial planning sector as a whole, we enthusiastically accepted the challenge and immediately set to work.

Edge Growth has been a market leader in ESD solutions since 2007, never flagging in our commitment to sustainable growth and job creation through the development of SMEs. Our decade of experience has emphasised one of our key tenets time and time again: a holistic, end-to-end approach to ESD is the only way to deliver measurable impact.

The Challenge

Sanlam required a holistic ESD solution to demonstrate its commitment to uplifting South Africa by promoting sustainable development and job creation, while enhancing its competitive advantage and simultaneously benefiting associated SMEs. This necessitated the implementation of a programme to achieve five key objectives:


  1. Enhance distribution and supply chain

  2. Develop suppliers and target market

  3. Create industry impact and transform action

  4. Create leading success stories for branding

  5. Enable optimal and cost-effective compliance


Edge in Action

Sanlam’s 2016 ESD programme was composed of three distinct, but aligned projects. The Accelerator project was introduced to provide supplier development support to build and transform 12 associated SMEs. Catalyst was designed to address distribution development by further empowering four existing financial planning practices and enabling the roll-out of five new firms. Finally, Bluestar was targeted at practice development, through the provision of practice management training to 45 Financial Planners.

A programme measurement and valuation process was also developed for Sanlam, applying a leading Balanced Scorecard methodology to ensure the reported outcomes had a meaningful impact on Sanlam’s objectives.

 The Results

Compared to 2014 and 2015, Sanlam’s 2016 programme results met or surpassed its performance in previous years with an overall programme score of 91% – ten percent higher than the year prior. Key areas that improved included procurement spend, communications and SME investment value.

Sanlam’s Accelerator project was a success creating 67 jobs, supplying 3890 hours of support, and an average increase of 21% in revenue growth – also all higher than in previous years. The Bluestar project exceeded expectations, providing a total of 384 hours of practice management training to 88 financial planners and support staff, across seven different regions. All of the advisors and associate advisors who completed the training contributed to BEE transformation, and 42% were female. Due to timing differences, the Catalyst project will only be reported on in December 2017, but the preliminary outlook is optimistic.

It is our hope that, just as Sanlam has extended this helping hand to these SMEs, they in turn will grow into the job-creating industry leaders of tomorrow, continuing the tradition of small business upliftment that will be so critical to the future of all South Africans.

If you are interested in finding out more about what Edge Growth can do to help you transform your business sign-up for a free consultation and we'll get one of our client managers to contact you.

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