People often ask me what the f*ck is “Pentech”. Well they don’t really – I ask myself that and then imagine that everyone is asking the same question.
But as people continue to follow and maybe read my blog, I have to assume that what troubles me – troubles them- I mean you!
We have fin-tech – which covers a multitude of techs, including insure-tech, reg-tech and even prop-tech. But Pen-tech hasn’t really made it into the tech family (yet).
I have often wondered why we find the idea of a pension dashboard so odd. After all, we were close to having combined pension forecasts 15 years ago and the idea of populating a few fields with data from different sources is not that advanced. But the pensions dashboard remains a kind of technological nirvana, so near and yet so far.
As I’ve noted before, the worry people have with technology is that you can’t really fiddle it. If you ask your data a question, you get a straight answer – a “straight through” answer. Which rather reduces your capacity to explain why something unpleasant is about to happen, like a realisation that all in the pensions garden is not rosy.
Pentech is slow to be adopted in some quarters because it can expose to common view the venality of some pension practices but much much worse, it can give people ideas that many pension providers would rather they didn’t have. If for instance you can, with a keystroke summon up a number that tells you what you own, what you’re paying someone to manage what you own and how successful that management has been…..you are not far from soliciting a second keystroke -“delete” . We are nearly deleted if we give people the pension technology they require. Pentech is a dis-intermediator and intermediaries do not vote for existential risk.
Pentech not only dis-intermediates, it also exposes whoppers. For instance it can show you that the data held on you is rubbish, This is very likely to be the case, because a lot of data is not static, we move house, change names and of course change jobs. Pentech puts us back in touch with our data (the pension finder service) but what we discover is often corrupt, data may have been badly input or not input or it can (occasionally) go wrong. The find/replace button is a scary one.
Pentech is – to those who see the word risk as bad news- bad news. It creates risks, risks of people finding out what is really going on , finding out that their data is dodgy, risks that people may decide to delete you from the management of their money.
All of this is behind why pensions has been slow to adopt technology, while other areas of financial services have been steaming ahead and getting their “tech-titles”.
To a techy, pensions really aren’t any different.
The business of getting data, and representing it to people so it tells them meaningful things is the same whether you are working out a loan, a life insurance policy or a wage for life. There are assumptions in all financial services that underpin projections into the future but other than those assumptions, the only variables are the data inputs, the rest is a matter of fact.
Where pentech is so difficult is not in the representation of the data, but in controlling the reaction to that data. Give someone a number representing the amount they paid you to have their pension managed last year and they could fire/delete you. Tell someone how much money they have and they might ask it back.
Pentech is a very simple but a dangerous thing because it takes pensions off their pedestal and simplifies them, to a point where they can become meaningful to people.
Pentech is the way we unlock the gates of engagement, but to allow people to walk straight through, we need to be brave – a lot braver than we are today.
We need to be brave
I want to restore confidence in pensions – that’s what Pension PlayPen does and it’s what AgeWage will do. I want to restore confidence by dis-intermediating and I want to be brave enough to allow the 90% of people who don’t take advice, to make their own minds up on what they want to do.
I want pentech to open the doors for people to do just that.