Augustine’s wayward prayer – “Lord, make me holy – but not yet”, sprung to mind as I sat with the dashboardistas in Parliament yesterday.
The Government’s “Pensions Dashboards – working together for the consumer” is a pretty vague document which limps over the line – six months late – and with little for the consumer in the next five years.
What the consumer will get is pretty much what the DWP and the pensions industry wanted. There will be multiple dashboards – but not yet.
“The evidence would suggest that starting with a single, non-commercial dashboard, hosted by the SFGB, is likely to reduce the potential for confusion and help to establish consumer trust”. (this statement – 205 – appears in bold in the printed document but not so – in the digital version)
Since the Single Financial Guidance Body has yet to start its work, I am not sure what the evidence is for the efficacy of a single, non-commercial dashboard. It’s true that in Australia, dashboard is a euphemism for a marketing device and it’s also true that European dashboards have been centralised and successful. But there is no evidence at all that a dashboard will work in the UK because it is non-commercial – or single.
Indeed – the Government’s attempts to make pension guidance digital to date – through the Money Advice Service – have been singularly unsuccessful.
The SFGB may be better, they have an influx of good blood from the highly successful TPAS and a new leader – John Govett who see’s his purpose as to “help people transform their own lives”
John was at yesterday’s event. He told the audience he was keen to get on with it. I wish him good luck, the impact of the transition to SFGB has so far been to keep project dashboard waiting for the best part of the year – while we await his and his Chair’s arrival.
I say this in the absence of any other excuse for the appalling delays in delivering this digital project.
Giving the SFGB first shot at a dashboard is like opening a motorway with a convoy of tractors.
Confusion over open standards
There was throughout the meeting, a confusion by the extent to which Government could adopt the open standards (the pensions equivalent of the CMA9) that could give us “open pensions”.
There are sections of the document which show the same confusion. P198 states (in bold in the paper copy)
In order to harness innovation and maximise consumer engagement, an open standards approach that allows for multiple dashboards is the right way forward.
but it doesn’t have the courage of its convictions (P209)
While the department recognises the commercial opportunities created by multiple dashboards, it believes that there should be a single Pension Finder Service which is run on a non-profit basis and with strong governance.
Lord share my data – but not yet!
While the CMA got banks to share data through a system of APIs, the DWP has decided that pensions are too hard for that and resorts to “industry positions”.
In a section entitled “a dashboard section for everyone” there are paragraph after paragraph warning against individuals having direct access to their own data.
Again there are contradictions everywhere . In P195 we read (again in bold)
“It is important that for consumers, the provision of their basic information is free to access”
but consumers – especially those with low levels of financial literacy are not to be given access to information without the provision of that information being regulated and it coming with a dollop of guidance – if not full financial advice.
The result of all this uncertainty at the policy end is this ridiculously unwieldy governance structure which will atrophy open pensions into a monolithic bureaucracy that will MAS look agile.
And what will all this cost?
We were promised a feasibility study, but this study has no numbers. There is no attaching cost forecast, no financial justification – nothing to tell us what the cost of all this bureaucracy will be.
The Government is making great play of the £5m the Treasury has given the DWP to provide a hyperlink to the existing state pension forecast service. But finding the £20bn that has gone missing, displaying up to 50m abandoned pots and regulating the whole process as outlined in the paper is going to be a mammoth undertaking.
The cost of all this will – other than the £5m fall on the pensions industry through increased levies.
These levies are unlikely to be paid out of margin, they will be passed on to consumers through higher charges. Another example of pensions abhorring a vacuum. Where costs are likely to fall – let’s find a new way to weigh our pension saving down with added cost.
I am not sure how to best describe the feeling within the room. It was split between relief from the politicians and civil servants in the room that they had got something over the line and got people like me off their back, the PLSA, ABI , Which all of whom seem to think that what we have is a good outcome, and me, Romi Savova and Ian Mckenna, who see this as a hopeless waste of time and money – an opportunity wasted.
Thankfully there was at least one journalist in the room who was prepared to call the Emperor’s new clothes.
Multiple dashboards, with information from *most* pension schemes, no commitments towards legislation, and first dashboard in 2019 – Govt couldn’t be more vague even if it tried.
— Maria Espadinha (@Maria_Espadinha) December 3, 2018
People have been given an expectation that they will be able to find their pensions and see their pension income and pots in one place. People will not want to wait for the SFGB to organise itself to deliver something in 2019.
In answer to question VI and VII of the consultation, I very much doubt that most people would wait another five years to see the majority of their data in one place.
Our expectation is that schemes such as Master Trusts will be able to supply data from 2019/20. Is this achievable? Are other scheme types in a position to supply data in this timeframe?
Do you agree that 3-4 years from the introduction of the first public facing dashboards is a reasonable timeframe for the majority of eligible schemes to be supplying their data to dashboards?
My question to the Minister was this.
“When I went to the first public meeting on the Dashboard, I was 54. I am not 57. Should I be waiting till I am 62 to see my data in one place?”
In a year when we have seen the successful implementation of open banking and Faster Payments, when HMRC continues to roll out Real Time Information and is demanding we make tax digital, pensions are moving at a snail’s pace.
The ABI, PLSA and Which will be embedded into the delivery function of a dashboard. The DPW will Chair its steering group. To all intents and purposes – nothing has changed. The State is in no position to facilitate delivery – as has been proved by the last three wasted years.
Now yet another Governmental Body has been placed between people and their data, the SFGB.
Bureaucracy is killing the dashboard and with it people’s hopes to get their pensions back.
I cannot support this approach to the governance and the delivery of the dashboard. It will cost people more than it delivers, it is unwieldy, unimaginative and deeply patronising to ordinary people.
People deserve their data now – not to the timetable of the pensions industry and Government.
Sums it up perfectly. Fortunately people like me, @henryhtapper and @ianmckennaftrc have some time to work on @DWP seeing the light. They have stressed that this is a CONSULTATION, so we should work on getting to a better final outcome. https://t.co/DLVINm8iH0
— Romi Savova (@romisavova) December 4, 2018