The primary focus of our own business at Smart Pension, since we launched in 2015, has to date been on the platform we offer, rather than on our investment provision. Pensions themselves are not a new idea but the technology behind our platform certainly is. However, a key feature of our marketplace in the future will be the way the pension industry becomes increasingly aligned, through new technology, with insight and advances in medical and healthcare markets.One reason for that is necessity, since in the broader context more people will be living for longer. It’s no secret that there will be enormous financial and social challenges caused by that demographic change. That’s not to overlook an important secondary factor, though, which is the effect of expanding technological innovation on the pension industry as a whole.Healthcare and medical markets continue to converge with technology, with innovation meaning that the lines between them are becoming increasingly blurred. This goes beyond the obvious example of the likes of Apple and Google putting more and more investment into these markets: the likes of Fitbits and Google Fit are just one part of a far wider picture.An increasingly aging demographic not only represents a challenge for the pension industry but will also have far-reaching effects in other fields. It places an increasing burden on healthcare and medical costs, so this is a market which is particularly receptive to innovation and ripe for breakthroughs and change. Hand in hand with that, the demands of this market, and the way it is data-driven, make it a continuingly popular focus for investment.Naturally administering any kind of life or health insurance, medical provision, pension schemes or annuities involves financial risk management. Information always has been, and always will be, key. New ways of capturing and interpreting that data will combine with technological innovation to enable better risk management, sharper financial forecasting, more informed decision-making and ultimately increased profitability.If all that sounds a little menacing, it’s worth bearing in mind that the fruits of that investment, as for so many technology-led companies, will benefit not only the commercial operations within that marketplace but also all of us, as consumers. It is not a case of ‘Big Brother is watching you’ – in Orwell’s original sense, we might add, rather than a popular voyeuristic TV programme sort of way! As consumers, the benefits we can expect to see include more competitive pension and insurance pricing, increasingly personalised healthcare and more relevant and effective medical care.‘Wearable tech’ is an obvious starting point in this discussion. The increasing number of useful things that Fitbits, for example, can do, beyond just being a novelty, brings an increase in their popularity. As a direct consequence of that, attitudes to wearable technology, and in some ways the gamification of staying fit and healthy, can be seen to be changing, too. As for any new product, greater consumer use reduces the item’s cost, whilst also bringing new ways for data capture – and a further knock-on effect is that more of that data can then be reported and used in a useful way.And what can we do with this information? As consumers, we know that a healthier population is one that has fewer medical problems. For health insurers, that means fewer claims; for healthcare providers, it means less pressure on resources. For all of us, it empowers. Imagine if lifestyle and medical data could come together in one place, not only from your healthcare records but from your workout at the gym, from your fitbit or other wearables, from your diet and even from your supermarket shop (are they buying sugar and alcohol?!): the sum of all this could be increasing sharp, in-depth, real-time and data-driven assessments of how healthy someone is, how likely they are to need medical help or to make a claim and indeed for how long they might live.We’ve seen great investment and innovation in recent years in the likes of the cloud, data analytics and cybersecurity as well as the introduction of GDPR. We are also seeing huge advances from big data, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and robot learning. All these come together to mean that the more ways we have of safely collecting data, the more data we can have available and the better we can use it. In a healthcare context, this confluence could be used not only to predict someone’s life expectancy but also for areas like disease monitoring, drug compliance and illness prevention. As an example, the software we have is looking for data-driven patterns, which allows medical experts to identify the patterns within cancers, say, or genetics, or even to tell you your current blood sugar level or the risk of an imminent heart problem or deep-vein thrombosis. At the same time, as technology which we might take for granted is becoming more widespread, globally, and there’s an enormous changing of social attitudes towards this information.It is important to remember that technology does not remove the human interaction in healthcare and medical provision: of course you’ll still see your GP (although you can do that via an app, too). But innovation should continue to complement and empower your doctor rather than replace them. The relevant thing is that we are seeing a confluence of a changing population, changes in technology and a change in people’s attitude to that technology, too.In the broader context, technology on its own is not disruption or change: rather, it enables change, rather than simply causing it. For those of us whose work will be both changed and complemented enormously by what both today’s and tomorrow’s technology will bring, we expect to see myriad changes to how our businesses function.
Smart is a global savings and investments technology platform provider. Co-founded in 2014 by Andrew Evans, Group CEO, and Will Wynne, Group MD, it is one of the UK's largest providers of workplace pensions. Its award-winning master trust, Smart Pension, is overseen by independent professional trustees.
In 2020 Smart Pension was named Master Trust Offering of the Year at the Pension Age Awards. Other awards include DC Master Trust of the Year, DC Innovation of the Year and Retirement Innovation of the Year in the 2019 UK Pensions Awards. Smart Pension was also named European Pension Fund of the Year 2019 in the European Pension Awards.
Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), J.P. Morgan, Link Group, Natixis Investment Managers and Barclays are all investors in Smart.
We tweet as @SmartPensionUK.
Contact the Smart press office on 020 8016 2553 or email firstname.lastname@example.org