Ian Smart is retiring after 38 years in the insurance industry – the majority of which has been at the heart of the intermediated protection market.
Smart left his position as product architect at Royal London Intermediary on 29 July having worked at just two employers throughout his career.
The first 11 years were at Prolific Life and the next 27 years at the Royal London group.
His career achievements include developing the Scottish Provident protection proposition in the late 1990s, being a key part of the team that set up insurer Bright Grey, launching the first relevant life plan along with colleague Jerry Bayman, and more recently working on the use of trusts and beneficial nominations within the industry.
‘Bluffed my way through the interview’
Smart told Health & Protection that he had been lucky enough to enjoy a highly varied career taking on a wide range of roles and job functions across both organisations.
However, he noted he fell into the industry somewhat by accident after mistakenly thinking his job interview was with National Providential Building Society, rather than Providential Insurance.
But having “bluffed my way through the interview”, Smart was hired by the insurer and worked across its operation for more than a decade, including the premium collection, claims, underwriting and other departments.
He put this grounding in many aspects of the organisation down as a major factor in how his career and impact on the market turned out, but regrets that not many are able to follow this path now.
“I don’t think people get that experience now,” he said.
“It’s kind of sad that I don’t see people getting those opportunities elsewhere. They tend to go into an area and work their way up, but don’t get that depth of understanding.
“It’s that understanding of what the person on the next desk does which is so vital.”
After 11 years at Providential Life, Smart moved to Edinburgh-based Scottish Provident in 1995 as the insurer was starting to focus its attention on the protection market and offer its menu plan.
Bright Grey and Relevant Life
In 2001 he then joined the small team charged by Royal London to build and launch specialist protection insurer Bright Grey.
“We made things a little bit different,” Smart said of creating the new brand.
Towards the end of the decade he started working with now-retired Jerry Bayman on relevant life plan which would be the budding of a new business protection market for the industry.
“Relevant life was the first and working with Jerry Bayman we looked at it together,” Smart said.
“We took that opportunity back in 2009, took a bit of a risk tested some products and tried it and it worked.
“At one point we had 100% market share because no-one else was in the market,” he added.
More recently he has been focused on developing Royal London’s version of the beneficial nomination process which means clients are able to ensure proceeds from their life policy go to the people intended without using a trust.
And he has also worked across the industry with Swiss Re product technical manager Ron Wheatcroft and Insuring Change partner Ruth Gilbert on the latest HMRC rules regarding trusts.
“That’s one of the more recent successes I like to claim to be part of,” Smart continued.
“It was a very big team effort. We were in negotiations with HMRC to get the best outcomes for protection policies and I think we achieved as much as we possibly could have done.”
‘Step change in the market’
Jennifer Gilchrist, protection specialist at Royal London, has worked with Smart since 1995 and hailed his contribution to the industry.
“He has really been involved in evolution of the protection market for many years,” she told Health & Protection.
“Bright Grey was a step change in market and along with the launch of relevant life which for me he was the inventor of.”
Gilchrist praised his depth of knowledge and technical understanding of rules and regulation within the sector, and his willingness to support the adviser community.”
“If Ian didn’t know it then no-one did,” she said.
“He helped out with advisers when they have difficult questions. They always come to him because they know he will be able to figure out what trusts or sectors will be suitable.
“He tries to guide them and point out the benefits of different sectors and of what can happen.”
In addition to applauding his cross-industry work, Gilchrist concluded: “Ian will be sorely missed and is a bit of a legend.”
‘It has been a team effort’
Smart said he has been planning his retirement for some time with the pandemic giving him the push to finally take the step back from working life.
His previous enjoyment of motorbikes has morphed into a plan to hit the road in a motorhome with his wife to enjoy the first stage of retirement.
And it is unlikely there will be any return to the industry after a break
“I’ve got no real interest in coming back into financial services – if I do have another job it would probably be as a campsite warden,” Smart noted.
He continued: “I spent pretty much all of my time for Royal London in the intermediated space so always had that interest in making the lives of advisers easier and offering more comprehensive solutions to meet their customers’ needs.
“I’m proud of what I have achieved – not everything has been successful but if you’ve not made a mistake then you’ve not tried, and if it’s not worked then we’ve improved it.
“But it hasn’t all been me. It has been a team effort – I couldn’t have done it without a team effort and I owe a lot to them,” he concluded.