We asked Mervyn Shanmugam, CEO of Alternatives at Sanlam Investments, a few questions shortly after he took the helm.

Alternatives are far more than hedge funds and typically offer investors access to real assets. Real estate, private equity and private debt make up the key pillars of our offering together with our empowerment and impact pillars. Real assets are usually unlisted and have provided sophisticated investors with attractive risk-adjusted returns over long periods of time. These opportunities are difficult to source and hence have been typically reserved for investors with deep networks and expertise in the relevant markets.
Together with my team we have a strong belief that purposeful investing will lead to sustainable returns. Our strong focus on client solutions and governance will provide a foundation for this. As an Alternatives business we’ll aim for making an impact and delivering attractive risk-adjusted returns. So the vision is to continuously improve the economies in which we operate by providing access to capital and our investors with these opportunities.
It’s in our DNA! We have been investing in unlisted real assets for 100 years. At the core of this has been the empowerment of communities. We’ve started, incubated and partnered many businesses over our history, such as BHP Billiton, Gencore, Metropolitan and recently Shriram and Saham. We have been investing in real estate, private equity and private debt for our own balance sheet and to underwrite the promises we make to our policyholders throughout our history. Third-party investors now have access to these opportunities. Our edge is in our entrepreneurial spirit with a strong focus on governance and risk management.
We have people on the ground in Nairobi, South Africa, Morocco, Vietnam and Singapore who are deal transactors and investment executives – who source, execute and manage investments close to the source of the investment and counterparty. We have unique and innovative products such as Climate Investor One, which generate strong interest in the market and we are often approached as an alternative option to traditional financing parties. We are very hands on, and an active partner in the projects we develop and finance. Finally, the business also benefits from the extensive relationship and profile of its senior executives, Sanlam and FMO, who are all well recognised and well regarded in the area of emerging markets and infrastructure investing.
Climate Investor One (CIO) is the first of an intended series of climate finance initiatives designed to combat the detrimental effects of unmitigated climate change.  CIO, a global climate fund, provides expertise, technology and financing to renewable energy projects in developing and emerging markets by mobilising private sector financing at scale supported by catalytic public sector donor funding. It seeks to simplify the manner in which capital is deployed and reduces complexity by delivering an innovative “whole-of-life” solution that provides a single financing source for each of the respective development, construction and operational phases of a project’s lifecycle. CIO operates across Africa, Asia and Latin America, and focuses on solar, wind and run-of-river hydro renewable energy projects. It currently has 11 projects in development across its mandate countries, including Djibouti, Tanzania, Nigeria, Morocco, Vietnam, Philippines and Uganda.
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