Adviser profile: Tamsin Caine of Smart Financial

After being invited to join Smart Financial, Tamsin Caine has fended off fractures in the firm and tackled work and life in equal measure.

Tamsin Caine's CV:

2015–present: Smart Financial, head of financial planning

2016–present: Manchester Metropolitan University, associate lecturer

2014–2015: Kellands (Hale), chartered financial planner

2013–2014: IFG, chartered financial planner

2006–2013: Brookfield Financial Planning, trainee financial planner to chartered financial planner

2001–2006: Bairstow Eves North West, mortgage adviser to customer service manager

Tamsin Caine's CV:

2015–present: Smart Financial, head of financial planning

2016–present: Manchester Metropolitan University, associate lecturer

2014–2015: Kellands (Hale), chartered financial planner

2013–2014: IFG, chartered financial planner

2006–2013: Brookfield Financial Planning, trainee financial planner to chartered financial planner

2001–2006: Bairstow Eves North West, mortgage adviser to customer service manager

Top tips

Tamsin has given us these succinct tips for business success:

1. Ensure your values flow through all aspects of your business.

2. Keep learning.

3. Regularly review and develop your client proposition.

4. Pay it forward.

5. Utilise marginal gains. 

An 'immense' journey

Tamsin Caine, head of financial planning at Altrincham-based Smart Financial, says she has been through an ‘immense’ emotional journey since joining the firm in 2015.

She has helped guide it through a tricky demerger and consolidation, gone through her own divorce and moved up to head Smart’s UK operations. Now, she is setting up new company Smart Divorce and targeting growth again.

Smart Financial last featured as a New Model Adviser® cover star with chief executive Steve Martin in 2010. In 2014 Martin and wife Michelle, who is also a director and head of finance at the firm, moved to Spain.

However, it meant he needed help running the UK operations. So he invited Caine, who he had known for several years, to initially join as a planner.

Top quote:

‘They’d always planned to move. They looked at their numbers and realised nothing was stopping them. Steve looks after his clients from Spain and comes back one week a month. It hasn’t impacted the relationships.’

Joining the team

Caine, who is chartered, certified and a fellow of the Personal Finance Society, accepted under one condition: that the firm would allow her to study a master’s in financial planning and business. Martin readily agreed. 'It was not a hard decision,' she says. 'Steve is my hero. It is my dream job.'

But the business was in flux. Martin had been unsure how to increase scale profitably because he only wanted to use chartered or certified advisers but found these too expensive. He tried recruiting and training two graduates, but both have since left.

The firm had also recruited former New Model Adviser® cover star Martin Miller, from JPM Financial, to create a Leeds office. That also did not work out. Miller left last year, taking his 150 clients to form new company Live Smart Financial Planning.

But Caine is determined to learn from this, and Smart has continued to grow turnover.

'We are now growing the business organically again and looking to recruit the right people,' she says.

She hired recent graduate Ashley Burrows-Brown in June last year, and another is set to join as technical adviser in August. Burrows-Brown is set to be diploma qualified by the end of 2018, then chartered in 2019. He will become the third adviser alongside Martin and Caine.

Top quote:

'When I joined, we had two offices. But Leeds went its own way, leaving us with around 75 clients. Martin wanted to do his own thing. These things happen.'

'Horrific roleplays'

Caine says the biggest initial challenge she faced at Smart was what she describes as the transition from adviser to a lifestyle financial planner. 'I was already certified and had a conviction for lifestyle financial planning. But my previous roles [trained me as an IFA, which got me into the habit of solving financial problems, for example] organising someone’s pensions in the first meeting.'

'Smart’s planning is about understanding the whole person: their goals, aspirations, legacy and community. Only then do we look at how they can use income and assets to give them the life they want.'

Top quote

'I found that new process difficult as I kept lapsing into the problem-solving habit. Everyone has a trigger for seeking advice, but that might not be the deeper issue bothering them. So I had to learn instead to listen, be in the moment and not preplan the next question. It took numerous horrific roleplays with Steve and practicing with anyone I could.'

In pursuit of planning

Training Caine in this way inspired Martin to set up the Financial Planning Training Academy in October 2016 with Damien Rylett, managing director at Bristol-based Brunel Capital Partners.

So far, more than 150 trainees have attended its one-day courses on financial planning techniques. 'Most of the day is about role-playing and practicing the first meeting,' says Caine.

Trainers include Brian Hill, managing director of Wiltshire-based Jones Hill, as well as podcasts from Jason Butler, financial well-being speaker; and Michael Smith, chief executive at Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire-based Chamberlyns.

Hill says: 

'Its big challenge is getting the right people. My advice is to focus on attitude and aptitude, not just qualifications. Accept that graduate recruits may only be with you for a relatively short period. But you want clever people with a passion, and that is where you find them. People who don’t have that keenness to learn won’t have a long-term future in financial planning.'

'Recruiting graduates works especially if turnover is not dependent on the adviser, but the back-office team. Building back office supports growth.'

Top quote:

'Tamsin’s clients are lucky. She is so highly qualified, intelligent and dedicated. We predict more planners will put lifestyle planning at the heart of their process in future and the move to fixed fees comes with that. That shows where Smart Financial sees its business going.' Brian Hill

Scouting for grads

Caine says her confidence in the role has risen dramatically. 'Steve was quickly asking me to take on more. I am now a trainer at the academy and head of financial planning at Smart, essentially running the business in the UK. This includes the majority of client-facing work, while Steve spends more time on the academy.'

She plans to expand to 10 chartered and certified financial planners within 10 years.

'We will do that by recruiting and training graduates and keeping them happy. As Richard Branson said: "Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to."'

'One way to do this will be to empower staff to drive their own part of the business. They could add different niches under the Smart brand as I am doing now with divorcees. We are already talking to Ashley [Burrows-Brown] about the types of clients he wants to work with.'

Caine will launch Smart Divorce as a trading style of Smart Financial at the end of February.

'I want it to have a collaborative feel. I experienced the less amicable side when my parents got divorced and I didn’t want that for my kids. Though it will be a separate entity, Smart Divorce will have the same staff, so there will be a link to Smart Financial advisers. If we get one or two clients a month from that, it will be a success.'

Top quote:

'I went through a divorce myself a year ago, so it’s an area I am keen to help others in. I want it to be the go-to website [for divorcees]. With case studies and guest blogs, for example, from family lawyers, a counselor, and an introductions agency, it will be the broadest range of information I can get.'

Pension practice

Another of Caine’s specialisms is pension transfers. Six of Smart’s clients have so far transferred their pensions out of final salary schemes.

'If clients have a defined benefit scheme, we will conduct a robust review of that, including testing scenarios on Voyant before making a recommendation,' she says.

She adds if someone wants to transfer for the death benefits only – crystallising the pension into a capital sum that dependants can inherit – she would not recommend that, as those benefits could be bought with a life insurance policy. 'There must be more than death benefits pushing the transfer,' she says.

Smart previously included more than 100 group personal pension (GPP) members among its total clients, but it has since discontinued those relationships. Caine says: 'We only want to work with engaged clients paying the appropriate fees for a full lifestyle financial planning service. The GPP clients were an overhang from some previous corporate work that was no longer relevant in Smart.'

Top quote:

'But there are some great reasons to transfer. For example, we had a divorcing client who will get a secure income from a teacher’s pension when she retires. But she needs to buy a house for her and the kids now, so she transferred out from the pension share and used the tax-free cash.'


Teacher and mentor

Caine gained a master’s with merit at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2016. Immediately afterwards, she became an associate lecturer there.

Her education role extends to mentoring three financial planners at other firms. She says her next learning goal is a coaching qualification, which will be useful for mentoring and for client meetings.

Outside work she has been a coach for Sale FC Rugby Club (where this photoshoot took place) on and off for around eight years.

'I’m passionate about rugby, I’ve always been involved. I was brought up on Rugby Special when I was a kid. But growing up in Derbyshire, there were no opportunities for women in rugby. I was told "it’s a boy’s game, you need to play a girl’s game."'

Her 14-year-old son plays rugby at the club, which Smart also sponsors. She adds that being a single mum to two children means the work-life balance is manageable, out of sheer necessity.

Top quote:

'I am working hard because I want to get the business up and running. Getting to where I am now has been an immense journey. Since joining Smart, I have become a different person: one who has grown more confident in my own abilities.'

The fee bit

Smart uses the six-step advice process from the Institute of Financial Planning (now part of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment).

Around 18 months ago, it changed its fee model for new clients from percentages (1% initial plus 1% ongoing) to fixed fees. Both the initial and ongoing annual fees are now £3,000 minimum but typically £5,000 each.

Ongoing clients receive one face-to-face and three phone or Skype meetings a year. They also get unlimited contact, regular communications and client events.

Caine says she calculates fees according to value and complexity based on her experience. However, the firm is looking to put more structure around that, to help new advisers. She says percentages are a bad charging model because a client who invests £500,000 gets the same service and value as one that invests £200,000.

Top quote:

'Fixed fees are also important because robo-advisers will do much of the investment process in the future. But robots can’t do the relationship bit. It will be difficult for them to empathise.'

The investment bit

Smart Financial runs in-house passive portfolios. It uses FE Analytics to research the seven funds it holds in portfolios. These include the Fidelity Index World fund, the Dimensional Global Short-dated Bond fund, the iShares Global Property Securities fund and the Equity Index fund.

Funds are 100% passive. 

She is not concerned about the recent market correction. ‘Active funds don’t get you out of the market before it drops either. Being active tempts you into behavioural errors, such as selling once the market has dropped.’

Caine’s master’s dissertation was about loss aversion, inspired by the work on behavioural biases by academics Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler.

'My research showed how the education and support that planners give tends to stop clients making behavioural mistakes,' she says.

The Smart 40 portfolio uses a composite benchmark. Against the Investment Association Mixed Investment 20%-60% shares, it outperformed in 2015 and 2016, but underperformed in 2017.

'Our composite benchmark is 40% in equities,’ says Caine. ‘The IA benchmark could be invested 20% in equities at some points and up to 60% at others, so it is not comparable.'

Top quote:

'The academic research supports the use of passive, not active. It is incredibly difficult to choose active funds that will outperform consistently.'

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