An entrepreneurial new auto enrolment firm claims it has solved the pension sign-up headache for thousands of Britain's small businesses as the deadline for enrolment looms for companies with fewer than 58 employees. Pensions Regulator's most recent report into SME awareness of the forthcoming changes showed that only 35% of small employers understand auto enrolment and workplace pensions.
Smart Pension's cutting edge platform allows companies to set up their Government-mandated workplace pension scheme in minutes, with immediate set up confirmation - and all available at no fee to the company.
The instant digital application can be made on any device and yet offers similar or higher legal compliance standards than any other scheme in the market.
Co-founder and chief executive Andrew Evans said: "We are huge supporters of auto enrolment and the positive change it is bringing to the UK's working population's provision for retirement. Auto enrolment means that every employee normally working in the UK gets the opportunity of more income in retirement. With employees getting a free top up of their pension fund from both their employer and the government, the scheme is generous and is going to make a huge difference to the quality of life in, retirement for participants.
However, reports have shown that the set up can be time consuming and our research indicates that small companies want to avoid at all cost wasting time on laborious, inefficient and complicated auto enrolment procedures. This could be a huge problem for SMEs, especially with penalties issued for any delay. Smart Pension was designed to take away this headache, and provide a fantastic solution to what could be seen as a big problem for SMEs."
Will Wynne, co-founder and managing director, added: "We have built Smart Pension's advanced auto enrolment platform from the ground up, avoiding any of the limitations of incumbent platforms. We have leveraged modern technologies to make for a frictionless experience as well as integrated leading UK technology partners into our flow, with the sole purpose of helping UK businesses meet their legal obligations quickly, easily and securely. Our platform was designed to be highly intuitive and quicker than anything else in the market, importing data feeds automatically and cutting out the complicated manual checking and paperwork that hold up old fashioned paper-based processes.
"Prior to designing the platform, we carried out research with business leaders and what came through loud and clear was that they must avoid fines at all costs and so wanted a simple, robust online process that could be completed in one sitting and which resulted in compliance achieved, at nil cost (set up or on-going) to their business, and with a very good underlying financial product for their employees. That is what we have built."
By 2018, an estimated 1.3 million British-based firms with employees will have to comply with new pension legislation or face severe penalties, including fines and even a two-year prison sentence.
The Government's pension initiative, which aims to encourage the working-age population to begin to save for retirement via automatic enrolment into a workplace pension, started in October 2012 with the largest firms. This year, the second wave begins in descending order of company size.
From March 1, firms with fewer than 58 employees will have to start automatically enrolling their employees for a workplace pension while companies that employ 30 staff or fewer will begin to auto enrol in the next wave, from June 1.
Smart Pension is a London-based start-up. It was founded in 2014 by Andrew Evans, a seasoned financial expert and former head of Lloyds Banking Group's wealth portfolio, and his co-founder technology entrepreneur Will Wynne, a former banker and CEO of online florist Arena Flowers.
They have now closed a significant investment (£1.5m) round from an impressive crop of tech entrepreneurs, including Tom Valentine, co-founder of discount luxury holiday firm Secret Escapes, William Reeve, serial entrepreneur/investor behind such successes as LOVEFiLM, Graze.com and Zoopla, and finance heavy weights, including Amy Nauiokas, previous CEO of Barclays Stockbrokers, the largest platform for investments in the UK and now President of Anthemis, a leading FinTech firm which invests in technology driven companies that drive change in finance, and Emma Davies, previously of global hedge fund Perry Capital and now working at The Wellcome Trust helping to manage its £18bn endowment.
Evans and Wynne have also secured partnerships with a tranche of top British tech firms including company registration data firm Duedil, to populate the autofill element of the company detail, Signable, to create user-friendly e-signature functionality, Callcredit, to perform the required automatic checks on company directors, GoCardless, for one screen direct debit input, and Postcode Anywhere, for address cleansing. In addition, the firm turned to Vzaar, to host its small business educational videos, and to Loyalty Bay, to power the Smart Pension referral programme.
Andrew added: "There is industry concern that as the volume rises by 20 times in the coming months, the existing providers will bend and break under the strain. But, through leveraging UK tech excellence and partnering with Apex, we are not only capable of supporting the current levels of enrolling businesses, but also of handling the 70,000 company sign ups forecast per month and more in the months to come, all at zero cost to the businesses we are signing up."
Launched in 2015, Smart Pension exceeds £4bn in assets under management (AUM) and now serves over one million members and more than 70,000 employers. It is powered by Keystone, Smart’s global savings and investments technology platform.
Aquiline Capital Partners, Barclays, Chrysalis Investments, DWS Group, Fidelity International Strategic Ventures, J.P. Morgan, Legal & General Investment Management, Link Group and Natixis Investment Managers are all investors in Smart Pension.