We are now in Mid- August. “Summer’s lease has all too short a date”, the promised announcement on the “feasibility” of the pension dashboard looks like slipping to the autumn.
Meanwhile over 100,000 people each quarter reach 55 , a point when they can exercise their pension freedoms. Many reach 55 not knowing what they have saved or even who has their savings.
The pension dashboard is designed to put people back in touch with their retirement plans by identifying what they’ve saved and giving them a link to the organisation that has its money.
Clearly in an age where data is a currency, the ownership of our data is a matter of importance. Since March, the GDPR has come into force, since January we have had “open banking standards”, since July 2012 nearly 10m have joined workplace pension plans and since April 2015, the pension freedoms have promised much – but delivered less. We are living through a digital revolution which enables us to see data about ourselves online – but not our pensions.
It’s good we can access information about the state pension using this link.
Those over 50 are entitled to a free conversation with one of pension wise’s experts.
And anyone can phone or mail The Pensions Advisory Service at any time for help.
These are examples where the Government is giving help to ordinary people using digital technology. But all three services are informational and stop short of delivering a definitive course of action.
Google does not place these services at the top of search pages, what appears at the top are services I can describe as “not so good”
The not so good
In finding these links, I had to by-pass a host of sites advertising pension comparison services from commercial organisations such as “age partnership”, “cashmypension” and “retirementline”.
The DWP are understandably uncomfortable that the commercial world’s idea of a dashboard appears little more than “lead generation” for financial advisers. Certainly the majority of the sites I visited today, do no more than capture your details to be sold on to the highest bidder.
We know how easily the “cash convertor” concept can be used to skin people of their savings. I can see the DWP’s reluctance to hand the dashboard over to the private sector.
However, the lead generation websites are currently the first sites people see when they want information about their pensions.
This is not what Government intended to happen.
High integrity / High Impact
The good has high integrity, the not so good has high impact. A dashboard should have both.
By integrity, I mean that the information available on the dashboard should be considered trustworthy and accurate. If a dashboard did no more than deliver people information on what they’ve got and what it’s worth – then the dashboard would have served a purpose.
By impact, I mean that the information available generated next steps – it was a “call to action”. I don’t think you can give people a dashboard without offering a steering wheel. To date the steering wheel has been “go seek financial advice” a call heeded by only 6% of us according to FCA stats. Here is the blockage, people want to know what to do but most of us want to do it ourselves. We don’t want any more expensive intermediation.
Most people want a dashboard and a steering wheel – and they want to drive their own car – they don’t want the chauffeured service.
The provision of high integrity/high impact services is best achieved by a public private partnership. I believe that the DWP should and could facilitate both the dashboard and the steering wheel by working with the private sector.
The DWP can’t sit on its hands much longer.
There are many organisations looking to deploy technology to put the right data in the right people’s hands. They include Origo, Altus, PensionSync, MoneyHub and Simplitium. All will tell DWP that they are ready to go, given the data standards, the security standards and impulsion/compulsion on providers and fund managers, they could build a dashboard tomorrow.
There are also organisations looking to convert data into meaningful information (in my analogy – providing the steering wheel). These organisations want to use their knowledge and skill to create ways to compare pensions and offer help on their transferability. These include Defaqto, Pension PlayPen, Fund Insight, AgeWage and Husky.
Such is the demand among the general public for the information needed from the dashboard and a guidance system akin to a steering wheel, that it’s likely that commercial partnerships will happen and the private sector will get on with the business independently of Government.
It is bad news that in three years, so little progress has been made to delivery. The private sector would prefer to build in partnership with Government, but in the absence of any news from the DWP, the private sector will build independently in the hope that it will re-integrate with the DWP later,
An opportunity lost
Back in 2016, in the early days of the pensions dashboard, private companies like those named above were offered the prospect of security protocols and data standards that would have made commercial dashboards a reality by today.
But the concept of “pentech”, attractive as it seemed to he Treasury, has not progressed as was expected. The DWP intimated that it wanted to take control of the dashboard and offer it – as Government offered TPAS, the State pension Portal and Pension Wise – centrally. This would have got round the difficulties of low integrity services.
But the trouble is time. It’s six months since March 2018, when we expected the feasibility study and the deadline to deliver a state operated dashboard by 2019, looks all but impossible. We have already lost the opportunity given by the initial momentum.
Doing nothing is creating new risks
The general public, reaching 55 in their hundreds of thousands, are fed up. Over 130,000 people have called for a dashboard via an online petition.
It is not fair on those commercial firms waiting to deliver dashboards and steering wheels, nor is it fair on the general public, to wait longer. The DWP really needs to get out its feasibility report and tell us what it intends to do.
This is not a call for further consultations, there have been quite enough of them , what is needed now is decisive action from Government.
- People need to plan, businesses need to plan.
- Further delays are not acceptable.
- The DWP needs to publish its intentions on the pensions dashboard without further delay