Ben Pollard is the founder and managing partner of Smarterly, the investment platform that targets workplace savings with what he describes as a data-driven yet user-friendly approach. The platform has Staffcare founder Phil Hollingdale as executive chairman and Unum has taken a stake in the business. Smarterly is now the preferred retail investment platform for Aon.
What was the trigger to setting up your own business?
When I tried to buy a stocks and shares Isa. As a qualified actuary I thought I should be able to do this no problem, but when I went onto Fidelity and Hargreaves I was taken aback by the opinion-based nature of the information they offered. I was used to a data-driven approach – it should be as simple as diversifying investments, keeping costs as low as possible and matching assets and liabilities.
How is Smarterly different from the likes of Wealthify and Nutmeg?
We cover the whole market whereas Wealthify and Nutmeg have readymade portfolios built on ETFs. We have portfolios but we also have 1,000 different funds from 90 different managers. So we see ourselves offering the simplicity of a Nutmeg and the range of a Hargreaves.
What’s different about offering 1,000 funds?
We monitor the risk in the user’s portfolio on an ongoing basis. The algorithm crunches a million data points every night, on fund manager data, on BoE interest rate indicators, etcetera. So we can alert you if triggers are set off.
What behavioural insight has struck you in setting up your business?
The fact the Isa limit is now so high means the urgency to use it up each year has been diminished.
What would you say to a young person coming into the benefits sector?
There’s a lot of change on the way and the sector is ripe for tech-driven disruption. But the regulation can hold back market entrants, so get into a team with someone who knows how to deal with that.