Smart as you like – how a fintech start-up has created one of Britain’s great pension schemes.

As many firms discuss the future of the office Smart signs 15 year lease for London based 6-floor global HQ

I met with Jamie Fiveash, the CEO of the Smart master trust yesterday. Smart have gone places, specifically to their own Smart building at 136 George Street, overlooking the busy Edgware Road. When I arrived to have a look around, filming was going on – Andrew Evans the global CEO filled me in on Smart’s global expansion and the Series D funding that arrived over the summer from Chrysalis. There’s is a smart building  , built for the future, net-zero from day one.

Jamie was in confident mood. Smart will soon be announcing its master trust has  over one million members and £2.5bn in assets. It is gearing for future expansion by making itself more transparent, it will be unbundling its AMC so that members can see what they are paying Smart and what they are paying fund managers. Smart are committed to not making a turn on their investments, what you pay for investments  is what Smart pays.

We discussed the cost of living crisis. Smart are considering reintroducing a “pause button” that they have previously trialled , allowing members to set how long they want to take a “pension holiday”. This sounds a good way for members who can’t afford their pensions today to set a target for a return to saving – without waiting for re-enrolment. It also allows the “pause” to be aligned to employer’s practices on readmission to pensions (and gateway benefit forsaken – such as death in service).

Smart are pressing ahead with trialling “member exchange”. It’s a system where members with small pots with Smart would find their small pot transferred to their new master trust in exchange for members with small pots elsewhere, consolidating with Smart. We talked about consolidation in general and how, rather than making it hard for savers to transfer pots – we can make it easy. Smart have been helping people find their pensions using Pension Lab and we discussed how value for money metrics could be used to help people decide whether pots should transfer, and if so – to where!

Smart have been a leading light in the efforts to improve the financial wellbeing of their lower earners, were they regulated by the FCA , this would undoubtedly fall under its consumer duty, let’s hope that those large insurers actively engaged with low earners, take note.

Although they operate a “net-pay” scheme, Smart have been active in lobbying the Treasury as part of NPAG to sort the net pay anomaly. We discussed lobbying further to get a relief payment for those currently over-paying pensions into people’s pockets this financial year.

And Smart have been at the forefront in working with the DWP to promote the take up of pension credit to its members at or past pension age. They will be hosting the next meeting and showing the way to some of their peers.

Jamie Fiveash – CEO Smart UK

When talking of Smart’s rivals , Jamie is respectful but firm. “Nest should be mutualised” for the benefit of the tax-payer customers and its own staff. Cushon needs to get on with integrating its disparate schemes.

It sounds that after nearly five years at Smart, Jamie is ready to play a more public role. That would be good!

If this sounds an eulogy – well it is. Smart have got on with building one of the most populous master trusts even though they only started in 2015. They have grown through acquisition , but those acquisitions have been integrated into the scheme so that all members now see the same range of funds and engage with Smart using the same tools.

Smart globally is more than a master trust, it is a technology platform which can be used as easily in Australia and America as in Britain and Europe. A properly funded fintech , it is now in a position to drive change and in conversations with Andrew and Jamie, it is clear that the Smart Master Trust, will benefit from that change.

When AgeWage analyses Smart data, we find it amongst the cleanest of any scheme. Considering it comes from a multiplicity of small employers, that is a great compliment to their processes , technology and attention to detail.

Its investment governance is strong, under the leadership of Nikesh Patel who chairs the Trustee’s investment committee. Its Trustee Board is well led by Andy Cheseldine.

Smart has come a long way since 2015 and much of its success has been achieved through the work of people who are now applying their knowledge elsewhere. Claire (Clara) Altman is now building the retirement division of Phoenix, Darren Philp is building a new career as a policy expert and Paul Budgen leaves this week to study theology at Cambridge prior to taking the cloth.

As I walked around the Smart building, I wondered that so much can be achieved in such a short time. For that, hats off to the entrepreneurial drive and vision of Andrew Evans and Will Wynne. There’s much to be done, but Smart are delivering right now and setting standards in a way I never thought they could or would!

Andrew Evans – Global CEO

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in pensions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Smart as you like – how a fintech start-up has created one of Britain’s great pension schemes.

  1. Eugen N says:

    We have reviewed Smart for a client who is auto-enrolled in it, and there is nothing good I can say about it.

    Their growth fund is underperforming MSCI World index by miles, leaving money which should be collected on the table. Worst there is no clear investment policy to understand how they go about in choosing investments, if this is academic (evidence based) or by putting the finger in the air.

    If this continues like this it would be disastrous, clients are getting in high risk fund 5% per annum, instead of cost of invested capital – 10% per annum as MSCI World offers! Why someone should take risk if it collects half the performance?

    • Paul Bucksey says:

      Thank you for your comment.

      As with many other master trusts, our default growth fund is not 100% invested in equities, but invests in other asset classes to provide diversification and reduced volatility for our members. The fund is not therefore benchmarked against an equity benchmark such as MSCI World.

      You can find full details about our investment policies and process on our website here: https://www.smartpension.co.uk/governance/scheme-governance

      If you’d like to discuss further, please contact us at adviser@smartpension.co.uk

      • Eugen N says:

        I think you may have a problem with the fund name, and it could be seen as misleading. A growth fund invests in growth assets!

        I can see you have 10% in Gilts and 90% in equities, however even compared with 90% MSCI World / 10% Barclays Bloomberg Aggregate GBP Hedged, your fund is still 4% per annum behind! That is not small at all.

        How can 10% Gilts could be part of a growth fund, never ever were gilts considered growth assets. Maybe you should name the fund differently – multi asset with 85%+ Equity as an example.

        Growth is growth!

Leave a Reply