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Latest Pensions Dashboard report provides no firm timescale

13 April 2020

The Pensions Dashboards Programme, the group set up by the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), has issued a Progress Update Report, but failed to provide any concrete timescale for when individuals would be able to access their pension data through a dashboard.

The Dashboard project was first announced in the 2016 Budget, when government pledged the pensions industry would design, fund and launch a dashboard in 2019. Working prototypes of the dashboard were demonstrated in April 2017 but the legislation contained in the Pensions Bill, required to take the project forward, was delayed by the general election of December 2019.

Pensions Dashboards will allow individuals to locate and see all their pensions data in one place, thereby enabling better insight into their retirement provision and encourage effective retirement planning and better financial wellbeing.

Chris Curry, principal of the Pensions Dashboards Programme at MaPS (pictured), said “the delivery challenges underlying this vision are significant” and depend upon close collaboration across government, regulators and the pensions industry.

When fully up and running, the report said, dashboards would connect 52 million adults “to up to around 40,000 providers and schemes”.  Primary challenges include establishing a sufficiently secure identity verification process, working out how to match people accurately to their savings and addressing the varying types and quality of data held by different providers.

Curry said Pensions Dashboards would be ready to launch to the public when set requirements had been met, including the “fully assured” security of the ecosystem, the user experience has been tested, user behaviours have been understood and any adverse impacts or unintended consequences mitigated and “the service has coverage of enough pension memberships to meet users’ needs and be useful to a significant majority of people”.

He added: “Throughout the evolution of pensions dashboards, people have understandably wanted to know when they will be widely available for public use. Even when the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has decreased, timescales depend heavily on factors including technological developments and the progress of government legislation.

“We plan to lay out a more detailed timeline by the end of the year, but a staged onboarding process should be expected to allow data providers to get ready and for all the necessary user testing to be carried out.”

The programme also published consultation papers on the scope of dashboards and the data elements required from pension providers but said views would be sought on these papers later in the year, post the current pandemic crisis.

Commenting on the report, Anthony Rafferty, managing director, Origo, which has developed and demonstrated the Pension Finder Service, the systems for locating pension data and delivering it to dashboard screens, said it was “pleased to see that the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) candidate architecture for the Pensions Dashboards, in particular the Pension Finder Service, is to be taken forward by MaPS.

“We’re also supportive of the approach taken to the data standards, focusing on find and view functionality – an approach that is consistent with annual benefit statement data and as such will enable greater engagement from providers.

“The proposal that the architecture should be flexible to support deeper levels of data such as contributions and investments at a future date is positive.”

Kate Smith, head of Pensions, Aegon, said the Covid-19 crisis had added “further challenges” to what is already a “mammoth task”, with the programme dependent on the government, regulators, employers and the pension industry, as well as new service providers, all working together, “all of whom have other more immediate priorities just now”.

“The harsh reality,” she said, “is that the delivery challenges are enormous, and everything needs to be in place before pension dashboards can be implemented.

“In the meantime, many pension providers and schemes are already able to interact with their customers digitally, and the current crisis has clearly shown the benefit of this. State pension information is also available online. So many savers are able to keep connected to their pensions. It is possible that in response to the crisis, we’ll see accelerated progress in making more pensions digital which will be helpful once the pension dashboard programme restarts engaging with the pension industry.”

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