Ok it was only a bit of fun. Chris Curry of the Pension Policy Institute suggested we put the Pensions Minister in Room 101; Robert Ellison, wearing the scars of Carillion, suggested the DWP put the Pensions Regulator in Room 101 and I suggested the DWP put the Pension Dashboard in Room 101.
Robert and Chris were rebuffed, but my arguments swayed around two thirds of the audience of DWP civil servants to side with my proposal.
In case anyone considers that this is how DWP make policy – it isn’t! We await the publication of the DWP’s feasibility study, with numbers attaching to the cost of the Dashboard to the DWP – some time soon. My guess is that we’ll see it when Esther and Guy are safely off on holiday!
What did I argue?
I had five arguments – in summary
- The DWP should not risk being seen to be authoritative with other people’s data
- The Dashboard is a cliché – people need the steering wheel the DWP can’t offer!
- Technology moves faster than the DWP
- Incumbent data holders are using the DWP to avoid genuine disruption and competition
- A Government website is not where people go to sort out their private affairs
Here’s what I mean in more detail
The DWP should not let itself be seen to be authoritative on other people’s data
I referred to an article published in Accounting Web in which former Pensions Minister Ros Altmann sees “Huge Hurdles to Dashboard Ambitions“. She claims that DWP systems are old, disparate and non standardised” and that the state pension records are currently in a bad state, and that the cost of putting them right would be too great for the dashboard. I don’t agree- we can already see online our state benefits and putting them on a dashboard that aggregates as the combined pension forecast was supposed to do, is not in itself a problem. My point is that by running the dashboard, the DWP become authoritative on all data on it. That includes much of the private data they would be publishing. The Private sector can offer dashboards with caveats along the “crap-in/crap-out” variety, the DWP can’t.
The Dashboard is already a cliché, what was sexy in 2016 is now a digital commonplace
I made this point earlier in the week, actually people want more than a dashboard, they want a steering wheel and an engine. To simply give people a view of their affairs is not enough. People want an integrated service that allows them to look at what they have, make sense of it in terms of value for money and they want clear next steps – either to an adviser or to guidance on how to aggregate and spend their savings. Giving people a dashboard will not be enough.
The world is moving on in terms of technology
I’m not sure that Government is quite as tech-savvy as some of its customers, but it knows when to get out of the way. Pensiontech is not at the forefront of Fintech but we know our APIs for our RTI. We are learning from the pioneers of open banking and already applying smart ledger technology to tricky problems such as CDC administration.
The features of the new digital culture are its agility and its capacity to change direction (pivot). With the best will in the world, these are the not the strong points of Government departments. Whatever solution the DWP arrived at – is likely to be yesterday’s news.
I am not convinced that a state dashboard will do anything for competition
The DWP are right to be concerned that by giving dashboards back to the market, the purity of the vision will be lost to market forces and marketing.
But this ignores the power of the market to disrupt ossified practices. The ABI is keen on a state-run dashboard – to my point. I’m of the view that the ABI are not keen for change and see Government projects such as the Single Guidance Body, Default Investment Pathways and the DWP Pension Dashboard, as a means of holding up disruptive market change and meaningful competition.
People do not use Government websites to do things.
Unless it’s State business – paying tax, renewing passports etc, people aren’t used to using state assistance to manage their money. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau and MAS have been primarily about debt (and how to get benefits). TPAS is a beacon of light and almost the exception that proves the rule, but it is a place to learn not to do.
We do things at Compare the Market, at MoneySupermarket and (to a lesser degree) Go Compare. They are the guys with the £200m a year marketing budgets and they are the people who the majority of the 40m of us working and retiring people go to make decisions.
There are better places for dashboards than the DWP.
Dashboard in DWP’s room 101?
Well it was only a bit of fun. I won the game and did a little dance and everyone enjoyed it. Whether I am proved right we have yet to see.
If the DWP intend to do the full dashboard, it will be at great risk and at considerable cost. I don’t see the risks as worth the reward.
If the DWP decide to help the private sector with the key matters – security -data standards and impulsion/compulsion on the current holders of the data, then I am all for it.
I think I am on the right side of the argument and I hope that the fun stuff we did yesterday will result in a return to the original position adopted by HMT before it handed over to DWP last autumn.
We want a dashboard, but we don’t want a DWP dashboard! The DWP should put its dashboard in Room 101!