You have just launched GenLife. Tell us a bit about the company?
GenLife is a new breed of savings and pension provider with the specific intention of helping SMEs with their automatic enrolment for workplace pensions needs. We took an entirely different approach focusing on payroll, as pension deduction is a payroll function, and make it easy to get the data required to set up a pension. Technology has come of age and in 2014 we decided to design a self-service pension portal that everyone could use. GenLife is a digital business and we help our customers through their life journey and help them save for retirement, their future. All employers (SMEs) are guaranteed to be accepted into our pension scheme.
Who is behind the new company?
Unlike traditional providers, GenLife is not led exclusively by pension specialists. I have a background in technology and business process transformation and my second eldest son Arnie is a tax and payroll specialist. Our management team also includes Bob Ward, a pensions veteran, and Nayan Patel who used to be involved in running a cruise line. And our latest addition, Andrew Eborn, is an ex city barrister and owner of a media and content management group.
Why is now the right time to launch GenLife?
With April’s regulatory and legislative changes, and the obligation for all companies to be auto enrolment ready by 2018, the traditional world of pensions is coming to an end. We have a disruptive business model and can acquire and look after a pension member for less than £5 a year. This gives us a cost advantage in a market conscious of high fees and returns of people’s savings. We give easy access to world class saving options, no matter what size they are and we have some pension members paying us £0.50p contribution.
How important is technology for the business?
Technology has the answer as the trend of successful UK companies in the fintech space shows. Platforms allow consumers to be served easily and simply online. To be able to buy financial products online is the new direction of financial services. The older larger life and pensions providers are weighed down with obsolete business practices, huge overheads and need to charge their clients hefty fees that people don’t want to pay for.
Central to our ethos is to remove complexity and simplify the language. The GenLife business model focuses on automating everything that can be automated removing the human element, although you can speak to a real person at any time throughout the process if you want. Our pensions portal, which provides SMEs with a compliant solution with a couple of clicks of the mouse and minimal information making it fast and easy for our customers.
Uploading files is simple whether it is the payroll bureau or employer doing it and if they use payroll software that supports XML there are no files to transfer. The fact that our technology is so advanced means we can offer a low annual management charges (AMC) of 0.3% and employers are not charged for using our solution.
What impact has the requirement for all companies to be auto enrolment ready by 2018 had on payroll users?
The payroll industry has picked up the burden that is auto enrolment. Everyone expects it to have the answers and do the extra work for nothing. Employers expect the payroll agent to get the accurate payroll information, assess the workforce and then send the file to pension provider adding to their workload for which they don’t get paid.
Our approach places payroll and the payroll agent at the epicentre of auto enrolment and removes 90% of the workload by simplifying what is a relatively complex operation by standardising data standards between different systems. We are the first company to offer a PAPDIS ready XML integration for payroll software providers and we provide payroll agents with a bulk view of their clients reducing the need to logon and logoff for each and every client, they are in one view to process.
Tell us a little about your life outside of work, do you have any hobbies?
I used to play professional sport and love the sunshine and spent much of my time as a child growing up by the sea. These days the mind is willing but the body less so but I do go to the gym at least twice a week and try to eat well. A bit of golf and tennis is about it these days.
I love cars, especially V8 and V12 engines and love to read but don’t get much time unless I am flying which gives me some downtime. But mostly I enjoy being with the family, although the three boys are much older and two work in the business, my daughter is at home while she goes to college and weekends are spent in the country walking dogs and seeing old friends.
What is the one column or website that you read every day?
I love tech, gadgets and how technology changes and disrupts markets as so any publication, digital mag, online feed or forum that gives insight into the latest tech and trends I will read. Mashable, FinTech and similar news feeds I tend to read.
What is your biggest pet peeve, or makes you angry?
There are two things really and they are related. The first is how the financial services sectors makes it easy for people to abuse customers in terms of making a ‘quick buck’ and secondly the regulators have not only created the environment for this to happen, but also sit back and remain too passive.
It is the people whether in banks, insurance or financial advisers that give our industry a poor reputation and creates distrust and uncertainty which makes it more difficult for us to build the trusting relationship.
What would you do if you were Prime Minister for a day?
A day isn’t long enough. I have however always been interested in politics and would someday when I am finished with business, consider this direction. If I had the freedom as PM to do one thing in a day I would make sure British entrepreneurs were given every possible incentive to create and invent stuff which is part of the British DNA and, through the Victorian era, helped make the world what it is today.
What would you do if you received a windfall of £1000?
Save it! Because you never had it.