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Kate Smith, Aegon

news published date 13 October 2021
  • Awards
Recognition of Achievement 2021 – Throughout her career, Kate has helped to shape the pensions industry in the UK and supported a greater understanding of the ever-changing rules and regulations. She is also bringing attention to the gender pensions gap and flagging how it can be narrowed.

Based in Edinburgh, Kate has built a strong reputation over the years in the pension industry and is a well-known expert across the media and sector, most recently appearing in the role of the ‘pensions doctor’ for the money section of the Daily Telegraph, among other media outlets.

However, it is more than a job for Kate, who regularly uses her platform to good effect, helping others to benefit from her experience and highlighting the opportunities and challenges of saving for retirement. It’s important work the team at Aegon particularly wanted to recognise, given her efforts have helped her colleagues at Aegon as individuals over her 15+ year tenure, and helped women externally as Kate has sought to highlight and raise awareness of the gender pensions gap, advocate for change and empower females to start to close the gap versus their male peers.

It is due to social norms that women have tended to be the main carers and take time out of work, or choose to work part-time, while raising a family. But the focus on family impacts their lifetime earnings and their ability to save in a pension. The pension gender gap widens with age, and the pandemic has made this worse. Women save less than men, but tend on average to live longer, so actually need to save more. And while many WIBF readers may be aware, many women are not. Kate is also keen that her two daughters are among these.

It is against this backdrop that Kate has been working hard, using a variety of channels, including sessions linked to Pensions Awareness Week in 2020, an internal session for Aegon staff in April 2021 and, in the same month, a live Q&A session attracting around 500 Telegraph readers (and multiple questions), with the recording attracting many more views. This work was on top of the daily task of talking about the pensions gender gap in the press, with many views based on research to explain the challenges facing women ahead of a during retirement.

Kate is also involved in lobbying the UK government to make changes to the pension auto-enrolment policy, which should better help women save women and assist in closing the gender pensions gap. A keen advocate of auto-enrolment, she regularly flags how changing the boundaries will also allow more women to benefit from employer contributions to their workplace schemes. She has also helped raise awareness of pension scams and supported the campaign for the cold calling ban to protect pension savers across the UK.

Her current campaign is to try to encourage as many women as possible to check their state pension, and, if they can, fill in any gaps in their National Insurance record. You too can check your record here and see how many years more you need before you reach the 35 qualifying years needed to receive a full UK state pension.

Above and beyond her pensions work, Kate is also passionate about providing saving tips for women to help them to take control of their finances and raise awareness of some of the financial challenges faced by women.

As a result of Kate’s efforts, Aegon believes there is now better awareness that the gender pensions gap exists. It’s a topic being openly debated and there is a push for changes to be made to help address it. Women are being encouraged to take action to deal with their personal circumstances, while lobbying continues to make improvements to auto-enrolment to help close the gap.

Kate readily admits that being one of the few females active in a male dominated sector has had its challenges, but believes Aegon’s culture has supported her in her career progression and ambition. Industry recognition has hopefully helped too – in addition to the recognition as a role model for Women in Banking & Finance, Kate won awards in both 2018 and 2019 as she was named Woman of the Year – Retirement in the Financial Advice Awards. Being resilient has been key in Kate’s view of her success in her career. And she’s used her experience to encourage female colleagues to aim high and be confident in their abilities to achieve their career goals too.