Like a fool I thought that a DWP seminar on the Pension Dashboard would be held at the DWP, it was held at the ABI. I had to double back on my Boris Bike. which meant I missed the Pension Minister’s words . Cycling on London’s new super high-way linking the DWP and ABI at least gave me time to re-cap.
Those were the days!
The Pension Dashboard was launched in Aviva’s Digital Garage in Hoxton Square by Simon Kirby .
Simon is no longer in politics (let alone the Treasury) and his mate Richard Harrington is no longer in pensions. The Treasury have handed over to the DWP where former Treasury star, Charlotte Clark has taken up the baton. Guy Opperman has told us the Pension Dashboard will happen. I went to One America Square to find out what.
I found that somewhere in the intervening 6 months, there has been considerable Governmental scope creep and this concerns me.
The Digital Garage has been replaced by One America Square, Fintech by the ABI and the buzz-words are now “compulsion” and “standardisation”.
Two things have changed
- This is now about Government delivering , not about Government facilitating
- We are now assuming that pension operators will have to participate.
The world according to Kirby was a place where entrepreneurial zeal as displayed by firms like MoneyHub and Pensions Bee and Evestor, were held back only by the lack of data standards. Given a common set of protocols, devised by Government and curated to the Fintech cognoscenti , the Hoxton square mob would make the dashboard happen.
Just look at how revolutionary things like mobile banking and comparison sites have already been.
It’s time for pensions to catch up. (Simon Kirby March 2017)
The world according to the DWP is one where innovation is a dirty word and where the entrepreneur is regarded with suspicion.
The not so brave new world
Whatever happened to the data standards, they weren’t on display at the ABI. Instead we learned that the Government was not only going to facilitate but legislate. New laws were on their way that would require pension operators to make data available on request. Government would now operate the data hub through which all data would pass. Innovators would have to plug into the hub to play.
The key words were simplicity and consistency. The vision was one of people comparing their combined pension forecasts (remember them?) with each other – presumably after a good session on the printer. Far from catching up, the pension sector looks consigned to standing in a queue outside the DWP waiting for further instructions.
I have not seen the DWP in such interventionist mode since the days of Gordon Brown where the vision was of NEST managing the auto-enrolment process. There are many who still cherish that vision, I am not among them.
NEST have continued to go their own way. They did not co-operate when payroll needed a common data standard and effectively killed PAPDIS at birth, they are now the outlier, the only major workplace pension operator not using Origo. NEST has consistently refused to co-operate with private pension providers on matters of data management.
NEST demonstrates the not so brave new world of the DWP and much as I like and admire Charlotte Clark, I see her vision and NEST’s vision as compelling everyone to dance to their tune.
The auto-enrolment project compelled employers to participate. Employers have also been compelled to adopt RTI and are now struggling with GDPR. We have compulsion coming out of ears.
The cost of digitally transforming legacy systems or adopting manual data export processes will be very high. It will eat into whatever budget operators have for innovation. There are many areas competing for that money, not least the need for proper payment systems so people can spend their pension pots with the freedom they have been promised.
But worst of all, compulsion on a pension system that is, as Kirby pointed out, well behind the Fintech curve , will not drive innovation or competition or better outcomes. It will create another big Government data cock-up , the likes of which litter the digital landscape.
What can the DWP do?
I would urge the DWP to reconsider its expansionist agenda and start talking again – not to old lags like me (there were many in the room) but to the young people who are energised to deliver real change that is relevant to a generation yet to have serious pension wealth.
Leave the baby boomers out of this – give the dashboard to the kids
Forget my generation, we can get by on the BR19 and from forensic research using the tools at our disposal. We can turn to MoneyHub and PensionBee and Evestor if we need help in aggregating data and we know that these guys are about managing our money.
Divorcing the delivery of the dashboard from the entrepreneurs is retrograde. Let them drive technology forwards and leave our generation to innovate another way. I will be spending two days this week looking at CDC.
Being sold robo-aggregation is the least of anyone’s problems.I have no difficulty telling a robo-adviser to f*ck off, I do it every day. Robots are remarkably resilient.
Those who worry that the innovators are just trying to sell them something, have forgotten that most of us need to buy something – a properly organised retirement plan. I have absolutely no difficulty with Fintech’s driving that forward.
Take back this project from the ABI
The DWP should get back to being the DWP and leave the ABI out of it. They should have their own budget for this important project and should not be having meetings in the offices of one of the vested interests.
Frankly, if the DWP cannot host their own research, then Guy Opperman’s claim that the “Dashboard will Happen”, sounds an empty threat.
Focus on the future not the past
The pension dashboard is in danger of delivering a “super-simpi”, a souped up statutory money purchase illustration.
The value of the Dashboard is not in making the past better but in satisfying the needs of a coming generation. Frankly it’s the generation who were not represented in the room i was in yesterday lunchtime.
If you want a dashboard that is relevant to people under 35, put people under 35 in charge of delivering it.
Talking among ourselves.
The DWP had a little innovation in the room in the form of a foam ball housing a radio mike which was supposed to be chucked around the room by energetic dashboardees.
It didn’t work. An elderly matron professed she’d never been much good at netball and the ball was politely passed from table to table.
It seemed a good metaphor for what was happening with the dashboard itself.