Meet the team | Haven Financial Solutions

About Us -> Meet the team

Our greatest strength is our people, we invest in and develop our team of specialist professionals, who’s individual local experience is second to none. Our employees are the backbone of our business and without them, Haven Financial Solutions would not be the company that stands today.

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Matt Thomas

Managing Director

Matt is the founder and Managing Director of Haven Financial Solutions.

He is certified in both personal and business protection, personal & group private health cover and holds the SWEP Wills & Estate Planning Certificate.

Having lost his father to an aggressive brain-tumour, Matt sees clearly the huge protection gap in the UK. He believes that all families and business owners who are reliant upon their own ability to work, to generate the income needed by them and their families, should ensure they have the protection in place to ensure that should something happen they will have the financial support to carry them through difficult times.

Matt lives in Poole with his wife Gemma, two children and a cat called Rambo. In his spare time (the little he can get with two children), Matt is often on the lookout for a new car, or breaking his leg for the 100th time!

Matt is well known in the office for his unique singing voice. It’s akin to a cat in pain and it prompted the immediate purchase of a new stereo to compete with his erm…. talent.

He is also an active Ambassador for the Dorset Cancer Foundation which is a small Dorset-based charity that provides financial support to anyone suffering with cancer. The charity fills a void that is not covered by local or national government by providing help to cover costs such as rent or mortgage arrears, food, clothing, and travel costs to cancer treatments. You can find out more at about this charity here.

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The Real Boss

Harriet joined the business in 2017 (when she was born) and has been involved ever since. 

Some say that Harriet is the real boss, and when she isn’t chairing board meetings, she is using her creativity to improve the office environment…others say she just twirls on the spinny chairs and draws on the walls!

Like most big-shot CEO’s when she isn’t in the office, she is pursuing her dreams. Like Richard Branson, she shares a love of space travel and among her most ambitious projects has been to take “Rambo” the family cat, and her dolly to space (on a rocket made of pillows…obviously!)

As you may expect with so much to do, Harriet is not often in the office.

When she does grace us with her presence, she tends to head straight to the water cooler and works her way through that. Swiftly followed by trying to make paper aeroplanes out of the shredding pile.

After such a hard day it’s usually straight home (chauffeured of course), to de-stress with a Harry Potter movie or High School Musical.

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Gemma Thomas


As the business has grown Gemma has joined the firm alongside her husband (Matt) on a part-time basis, to support with some of the operational demands that come with running a growing firm.

Originally from Southampton, Gemma moved to Poole with her family during childhood and has primarily worked in the local travel and leisure industry. Then attaining level 5 in her HR CIPD (Chartered Institute of Professional Development).

At Haven, Gemma is primarily responsible for managing our post-sales process, ensuring documents are created in a timely manner and distributed both for compliance checking and to our clients.

As the business has grown and we are tasked with managing more clients, this has become an integral part of keeping the wheels turning and maintaining the fantastic relationships we have all worked so hard to build.

When Gemma isn’t running around after her family, she is usually on the hunt for some shoes or at the hairdressers!

In the office, Gemma is well known for her passion to keep her environment tidy…sometimes a little too enthusiastically…it’s common to lose your drink or stationary half-way through whatever you are doing…only to find it has been tidied away!

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Kara Birrell

PA to Managing Director

Kara joins us following a few decades in operational management roles. Ensuring customers expectations are not just met, but exceeded, is her driving force.

Kara lives on the edge of the New Forest, so when she’s not working, she can be found galloping across the forest as she’s an avid horse rider. And if she’s not riding, she might be rescuing dogs from Italy and if she’s not doing that, she’ll be getting an adrenaline hit; following in her famous father’s footsteps as he was an exceptional racing driver taking a Class win in the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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Cheri-Lin Johnson

Protection Specialist

Cheri joined Haven as a Protection Specialist. With many years’ experience in both customer and business facing roles, covering the mortgage, protection and property industry. With a comprehensive understanding of the products and she is passionate about matching people with the best solution.

Cheri lives in Corfe Mullen with her husband Chris and 4yr old son Shaun. They have two beautiful kittens called Cookie and Mocha.

Sadly, Cheri has had both first-hand experience with protection, having had to claim on her own income protection policy following crippling morning sickness, and having witnessed friends pass away from cancer with no life cover in place to look after their families. She has also seen a close family member diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully they had a critical illness policy in place and so received a lump sum payment which then helped them purchase a family house and secure their future.

Cheri loves to be creative and if she’s not spending time with her family, she can be found painting or making a keepsake present for a loved one’s new baby arrivals or children’s birthdays.

At work, we certainly know when Cheri is in the office. We have at times wondered whether Cheri even needs a phone for her clients to hear her.

With an evident passion for what she does, anyone who meets Cheri can tell she has their best interests at heart and will go above and beyond to ensure their loved ones are taken care of.

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Jemma Read

Protection Specialist

Jemma is qualified by the chartered institute of insurance and spent more than 13 years training financial advisers in personal & business protection before taking to advising herself. Her extensive, detailed product and technical knowledge combined with her passion to help people protect those they love means she is perfectly placed to find the right solution for each individual client.

Relationships and the ability to provide a personal service are really important to Jemma, so this combined with her expert knowledge of the industry means her clients are given the very best attention.

In the office we have never seen Jemma in a bad mood, and she is known for her healthy snacks, putting most of us of us to shame.

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Anna Ford

Protection Specialist

Anna joined Haven Financial Solutions as a Protection Specialist, after having spent over 10 years in the insurance industry – most recently specialising in family protection at a large local brokerage.

With a desire to provide a more personal service and to give more specialist advice, Anna decided to leave her call centre environment and join the face-to-face based protection team here at Haven.

Anna works diversely across telephone, video calls and face-to-face appointments dependant upon the clients wishes and location.

Since Anna started her career in protection, she is proud to have been able to help thousands of families. Being a mum of 2 young children herself, she finds it easy to relate to the importance of giving families the peace of mind that a protection package offers.

Anna’s personal drive, combined with her knowledge of protection and underwriting means she is perfectly placed to find families the right solution, first time.

When she’s not in the office, you’ll often find her travelling up and down the country to take her two boys to football games, walking her bulldog or at the gym trying to work off her last Thai meal! 

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Chris Marshall

Protection Specialist

Chris joined Haven as an experienced protection specialist, bringing with him a wealth of knowledge and years of experience providing protection to clients across the UK.

Prior to working in the protection industry, Chris worked in medicine and so his knowledge of medical conditions and their treatment is second to none (so much so that his partner thinks he’s the family doctor!). This knowledge and experience mean that Chris is ideally suited to recommending the most appropriate provider for each client / medical history. Ultimately leading to the best outcome both in terms of policy cost and cover.

It is clear to see from the way Chris handles each case, that he has a genuine passion to make sure everyone has the cover they need to protect themselves and their loved ones. Chris strives to always provide the best possible service.

Chris lives with his partner Tasha and their four children, Josh, Marley, Jake, and Indi. Along with their two lively little dogs called Nala and Koni. This keeps Chris on his toes at the weekends, with family days out and being on constant call for “Dad Taxi”.

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Kris Haywood

Health Insurance Specialist

Kris is our dedicated health insurance specialist and comes with 15 years experience in the industry having worked for one of the UK’s leading health insurance providers.

During this 15 year period, Kris worked across many areas of the business including customer care, sales and sales compliance and so has an in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of a health insurer.

Kris lives in Burley in New Forest where he has also worked for the last 15 years as a retained firefighter. Providing emergency cover during the nights and weekends to a whole host of incidents and helping to protect the community. He also arranges charity events for the fire station including car washes and collections at village events.

Outside of work, Kris can usually be found in the gym as he has a passion for CrossFit and all things “health & fitness”. Something that he hopes to share with all of us in the office…whether we want to or not…

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Rachel Hayes

Wills & Estate Planning Specialist

Rachel joined Haven as a Will Writer and Estate Planner, helping manage the Will Writing, Trust planning and Lasting Power of Attorney side of the business.  She is a member of the Society of Will Writers and has been a CeMAP holder since 2007.   Rachel has extensive experience building long lasting client relationships and is focused on fully understanding a client’s needs.

Rachel has spent 15 years working in Private Banking,  Wealth Management and a Private Family Office looking after high net worth and ultra-high net worth clients. 

After growing up in Poole Rachel has recently moved back with her family having left a number of years ago to live in London, Hong Kong, Dublin and Surrey! This experience of both living, working, and having children overseas gives her a unique perspective which she uses to her client’s best advantage.

Outside of work she loves to travel, spend time at the beach with her family, exercise at a military style bootcamp and eat a lot of Sushi! 

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Darren Short

Wills & Estate Planning Specialist

Following a successful career in finance, Darren joins Haven to offer straightforward advice on writing a Will and overall Estate Planning.

With his previous career spanning over 40 years based on Integrity, Honesty, Trust, and most of all Respect, he aims to help you take care of yourself and your loved ones throughout your life journey.

Darren is pragmatic and thoughtful, the perfect combination for conversations such as these. 

When he’s not at work, Darren loves to spend time with family and friends, and work his way around the occasional golf course!

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Julie Blackwell-West

Wills & Estate Planning Specialist

Julie has joined the team at Haven with over 30 years of legal experience. She had her own law practice for 10 years and obtained Lexel accreditation, the Law Society’s practice quality mark. Client care is of utmost importance to Julie, as it is to Haven.

Having been a tenacious litigator, and aware of the growing number of claims being made by disgruntled beneficiaries, she will strive to protect clients, as much as possible, from potential unfounded claims after death.

Originally from Essex, Julie moved with her husband John to Dorset in 1997. They owned a house in France and lived there in 2013, so Julie is very aware of the additional obstacles to overcome if a client owns property abroad.

Julie adores all dogs but is mad about Boxers because of their friendly and silly nature. She has been lucky enough to share her home with 4 Boxers at various times. Luckily John shares her love of the breed.

She helps out with a small Bournemouth based charity, Helpful Hounds, which trains assistance dogs for children with disabilities. In 2022 Julie and John drove a truck of pet supplies to Poland, on behalf of the charity, for a rescue centre caring for pets displaced by the war in Ukraine.

Outside of work, her main interests are travelling, having bought a campervan in 2022, and exercising. In particular, she enjoys boxing training and, although petite, she packs a mean punch!

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Adam Penn

Will & Estate Planning Specialist
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Vicki Davis

Protection Administrator

Vicki joined the Haven family in 2023, having previously worked as Operations Manager for London’s largest antiques centre. She has a strong multi-tasking, organisational and administrative background and knows the value of building great relationships with clients to deliver the best outcomes for them.

Vicki's days are spent helping with the client co-ordination and administrative tasks on the protection side of the business, she helps gather important information for research and underwriting, processes applications and progresses cases through to decision stage.

Managing Matt's diary is a big part of her role here as he's here, there, and everywhere seeing clients, and Vicki makes sure he's where he needs to be at any time. Who knows where he'd end up without her?!

Originally from Dorset, Vicki moved back to Wimborne having spent the last 15 years living and working in London. She moved there in 2006 to study footwear design at university, and while studying met her future fiancé, Chris.

Outside of work, she is a passionate animal lover and holds animal welfare very close to her heart. She enjoys exploring the countryside with her fiancé, and her dog Buddy, who they rescued from a kill shelter in Romania in 2020. She also enjoys learning aerial hoop, practicing yoga, and creating watercolour illustrations for prints and greetings cards.

Vicki hopes to one day illustrate her own children’s book.

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Yvonne Thomas

Underwriting Co-Ordinator

Yvonne has two special qualities that make her perfect for this role:

Firstly, having spent her career as an NHS Nurse, more specifically as a Senior Sister at The Royal Bournemouth Hospital, Yvonne brings a wealth of medical knowledge which goes beyond that known by our protection team.

Secondly, she is Matt’s Mum.

Since lockdown, Haven have noticed a considerable increase in the medical disclosures on applications. This means that more cases than ever are requiring further information to be gathered from GP surgeries, consultants and from medical’s carried out with the client. Insurers are not well known for co-ordinating this very well and are far from pro-active in chasing and collating the information. With this in mind, Matt was able to coax Yvonne from retirement, to help the team.

Yvonne will typically speak to clients to gather additional, more detailed medical information when required by underwriters and will liaise with insurers, GP surgeries and medical assessors to ensure everyone has the information they need with the minimal disruption to the client. An excellent example of this would be that Yvonne will co-ordinate the sharing of medical information between underwriters, to prevent a client from having to complete multiple medical assessments in large & complex cases.

Originally from Kent, Yvonne moved to Dorset with her family. Where she met and married Martin (Matt’s Dad) and Matt and his sister Helena were born.

When Yvonne is not in the office she can usually be found with her grandchildren or at some sort of horse-related event with Helena.

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Paul Muskett

Client Co-ordinator

Paul is part our Private Health Cover team and is our Client Co-ordinator which means he is responsible for arranging client appointments and managing new business enquiries.

Having spent the early years of his career in retail management with a number of high street nationals, he brings a range of transferable skills that then enabled him to move into the secured loan market.

For the last 14 years Paul has concentrated on telemarketing, an industry where he has an extensive knowledge of areas such private medical insurance and the wider employee benefit environment.

Paul is highly motivated and is already instrumental in our company’s growth.

Outside of work Paul can either been found working on his garden / eyeing up the next DIY project. Or off on a walk.

He has been married to his wife Liz for 30 years and they have two children, now in their 20’s.

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Pete Thompson

Wills & Estate Planning Specialist

Pete is a professional Will writer and estate planning consultant, specialising in Wills, Trusts and Lasting Powers of Attorney. He is a member of the Society of Will Writers, currently holds the STEP Certificate in Trusts and Estates and is studying for the STEP Advanced Certificate in Will Preparation. Pete is excited to join the Haven team and add to the outstanding level of care and professionalism that Haven offers its clients.

Pete is originally from Suffolk and now lives in Wimborne with his wife and twin daughters, Grace and Lucy. It’s fair to say that having twins was a bit of a shock and Pete may well be much younger than he looks! Following his move to Dorset, Pete trained as a teacher and taught in local secondary and special schools, mostly in pastoral roles.

After 10 years working with some of the most vulnerable and challenging young people in the County, Pete embarked upon a change of career, which saw him move into the family Will Writing business. Talking about what will happen if we lose mental capacity or pass away can be difficult, but we are all aware of how important it is to have the correct advice and plans in place. Pete’s clients have commented that his compassion, sense of humour and supportive approach puts them at ease, making the process of getting their affairs in order as straightforward and stress-free as possible.

Outside of work, Pete is Secretary and 2nd Team Captain of Broadstone Cricket Club. Pete lists his cricketing achievements as only falling over on his own stumps once and narrowly avoiding his bowling being smashed for 100 runs in one match! He also plays squash, golf and loves to take his children camping in the wonderful Dorset countryside.