Star Tech: Smart uses cutting-edge fintech to lead pensioners in 'an auto-enrolment revolution'

The 100 per cent cloud-based, infinitely scalable start-up's concept has struck a big chord in the UAE and the wider region


Joydeep Sengupta

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Andrew Evans
Andrew Evans

Published: Fri 30 Sep 2022, 12:24 PM

Last updated: Fri 30 Sep 2022, 4:31 PM

Smart is a fintech company, which uses technology to provide pensions and retirement savings services better, faster and more efficiently than ever before.

The start-up has played a key role in the auto-enrolment of workplace pensions in the United Kingdom (UK).

Its mission is to transform retirement, savings and financial wellbeing, across all generations, around the world.

Smart partners with governments and financial institutions, including insurers, asset managers, banks, financial advisers, to deliver retirement savings and income solutions that are digital, bespoke and cost efficient.

Keystone, its platform software, enables them to set up best-in-class pensions offerings within months, generating radical value for millions of employees.

The Middle East is a key market for Smart.

Smart was launched in 2015 in London by Andrew Evans and Will Wynne.

Will Wynne
Will Wynne

It quickly grew Smart Pension, one of a small number of "master trusts" charged with helping millions of new savers get started with pensions saving. The UK auto-enrolment revolution has seen the proportion of workers with pensions climb from 49 per cent to at least 75 per cent in 10 years, partly enabled by digital technology. Other countries and corporations are emulating the British model, and Smart has 800 employees around the world to help them do it.

Smart's Keystone Platform is used by the DIFC Employee Workplace Savings (DEWS) Plan that was established in 2019 as an alternative to the traditional End of Service (EoS) benefits model and is administered by Zurich Workplace Solutions. Smart has been established as a company in the DIFC since this point and has an office in ICD Brookfield Place.

"Workforces are ageing throughout the world and the Middle East is no exception to the issues that this could cause. The size of the working-age population in Arab countries is projected to fall by more than one-quarter by 2060, and 60 per cent of the population in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are not currently under any social insurance umbrella, according to the recently concluded sixth edition of the Arab Pensions Conference. Smart's technology — created through well over a million hours and hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development (R&D) — will help to bridge that gap and have a transformative effect on the region's pension industry," said Tim Phillips, Director, Middle East, Smart, who is based in Dubai and has worked in the pensions industry for 17 years.

Tim Philips
Tim Philips

Smart's Keystone technology powers numerous retirement savings across the world. These include auto-enrolment rollouts in several states in the United States of America (USA), Far East in Asia, Ireland, continental Europe and Australia.

Phillips explained the Smart technology platform.

"Much of our industry is built on decades-old technology, which holds back millions of savers across the planet. Our experience in leading the auto-enrolment revolution in the UK gave us an early head start in understanding that, and now we've built a platform to help savers and providers worldwide.

Keystone makes pensions easier and cheaper for organisations everywhere to provide. It also gives savers the experience they've come to expect from best-in-class e-commerce sites and online banking.

Keystone automates key aspects of setting up and managing pensions, which were previously expensive, time-consuming and cumbersome. Savers get access to a user-friendly savings platform, providing all the advantages and protections of a traditional pensions service but with added long-term benefits gleaned from our tech-enabled efficiencies. Corporate and government customers avoid the huge costs associated with both set-up and the frequent upgrades, migrations to newer models and the maintenance of legacy systems previously required," he added.

Besides, the platform is interoperable with other human resources (HR), retirement and payroll systems. It is designed to provide convenience to savers in any country by keeping pace with fast-changing legislation. It can even enable that legislative change, because its highly adaptive nature gives policymakers practical choices that were not available to them before.

Expansion plans

The concept has struck a big chord in the region beyond the UAE.

Governments and public pension funds are starting to think about how they need to adapt and modernise to provide better systems for workers.

Financial institutions are looking at how they could launch compelling new solutions for workplace saving products.

Some areas of the Middle East are increasingly looking at how they can learn from the successful savings reforms that have been implemented in territories like the UK, Australia and Hong Kong. Smart has direct experience across four continents and is uniquely placed to deliver in the Middle Eastern countries that are ready to embark on a similar programme.

Arab Pensions Conference

The sixth edition of the annual Arab Pensions Conference took place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on September 28 and 29. At this conference, the social insurance and retirement industry came together to discuss pension problems and their solutions in the Arab world. The conference held 12 sessions and was attended by 50 speakers, including Smart, and around 500 participants from across the regional and global industry. The moot point of the conference is that many people in the Middle East work hard but don't have adequate savings when they retire.

Smart seeks to help these superannuated people with the all-important task of securing a comfortable retirement. "Our digital-first technology makes retirement savings accessible and affordable. It allows savers to connect to their money and manage their pensions in real-time. That's why organisations use us to set up their savings and pensions systems, and many others switch to Smart to reduce the pension charges they and their employees are already paying," Phillips said.

He explained the key features of the start-up at the conference.

"We're 100 per cent cloud-based, infinitely scalable and constantly deliver new features. Our cloud-native platform is built specifically for pensions and is designed to reduce the time employers need to spend managing their pension. Our platform automates most tasks, saving employers and employees a lot of time and money," he added.


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