Richard Smith and I spent over an hour talking and answering questions about the pensions dashboard to a large group of pension specialists working in the public sector. The event was hosted by EY and organized through the CIPP. We hadn’t expect to be so well received nor to have such diverse and penetrating questions and I suspect that we touched the right nerve in an audience that had no reason to be interested.
The slides are at the end and can be saved – we don’t need to be credited if re-used.
The pensions industry is keen to promote the repeated delays in the dashboard timetable (it was originally promised in 2019) on the scale of the task it has been presented with.
We didn’t approach our talk with “you’ll just have to wait” as our message. I asked Richard beforehand what should be our watchword and he said “humility“. Richard’s brief history of the dashboard made it clear that what the public wanted was available in prototype in 2017. What we will eventually deliver will be much improved on that primitive pilot but by the time it is “business as usual” a generation of savers will have reached the point when they needed a dashboard and no service was available. We spoke with the humility of knowing many in the room were the consumers that have been failed.
Why the dashboard timetable has been further delayed isn’t known. I read articles such as this, which praise the DWP’s decision to push things back, citing the data quality from pension schemes and commercial pension providers and the lack of readiness of administrators and ISPs to share data. But ever since the DWP took this project on, the Pensions Minister said there would be no excuses for lack of readiness or for poor data.
Howard Finnegan, in the article linked above says
This announcement is not the death knell for the dashboards programme, merely an opportunity to regroup and ensure that providers and administrators are ready to deliver when the time comes.
Surely it is time for some naming and shaming, just who is not delivering and why?
Richard and I represented the pension dashboard program with humility and positivity and we were treated with great respect. But the truth is – the people we were talking to – those who do the heavy lifting of payroll data and people with the complicated pension issues we almost all have, are being let down.
It is becoming increasingly hard to explain how and why pensions are different. Why solutions can be found to complicated issues like “real time tax information”, holiday pay for those on variable pay and the many other issues payroll people face, yet cannot be found by the pensions industry.
Richard and I were the last people to present in an intense day of learning for the payroll professionals we spoke to. They didn’t have to listen and they didn’t have to aske questions, but they did – and we could have gone on another hour!
The public’s demand for pension dashboards remains unabated. People want to know what their pots are where their pots are and they want answers to questions about pay.
Is it right that the majority of people who approach retirement have little idea about what their pay will be when they stop working?
While this group are in the public sector , it was clear from shows of hands that most had both DB pensions and DC pots, most were unclear about their DC pots and some I spoke to were unclear of their DB entitlements (not all public sector pensions transfer when members pay jobs).
People are unclear about their entitlement to state pension and how this works when they have paid reduced rate national insurance because they were “contracted out”.
People are unclear about what their DC pots are worth as “pensions” and unclear whether their DB pensions aren’t now pension pots. I cited the recent problems for a Scottish Power worker who thought his DB pension had lost £600,000 because his CETV had fallen in value.
Supply is not meeting demand
The pensions dashboard should help people understand their retirement situation and people know it. They are holding on for further and better information and showing immense patience
Although the meeting was a success and we were thanked for what we said, I felt deflated as I cycled away from Canary Wharf.
We are well into 2023 and we have no timetable to deliver people a dashboard. The industry seems to have accepted that the last delay is acceptable and that means that the next delay could be seen as acceptable too.
The organizations charged with making things happen – Cap Gemini and Origo, have not been censured, the pension dashboard program remains unchanged and the Money and Pensions Service, charged with providing the first pension dashboard – is conspicuously quiet.
Yesterday , a group of non-pension professionals assailed us with their questions, reasonable questions that we could only partially answer.
We should not conclude that because we don’t hear these questions, that they aren’t in the public’s mind. Any thought that we can continue to push the dashboard timetable out without consequence, must be countered by the £28bn of unclaimed DC pots, the disarray of non-advised drawdown and proliferation of small pots created by our auto-enrolment system.
There is a great deal of unwanted complacency about pension dashboards, we are not entitled to the patience we are getting from the public, we must humbly accept they they are being failed.
Slides and thanks
Thank to EY for hosting, thanks to CIPP and especially Shaun Tetley for organizing and thanks to the people who stayed and asked those questions – our payroll heroes.
For a medium sized closed DB scheme known to me the issue isn’t data quality it’s the complexity of the benefit rules which are a mash up of various merged schemes. Providing members with benefit statements on request, or just before retirement, is ok but it is all done manually, efforts to automate have failed either because of the complexity or the cost of development.
It is now faced with the task of recalculating all benefits every year at least and being able to provide them instantly on request. I am not on the coalface on this but I seem to recall there is an intent to provide some standardised approximations for DB schemes to use to calculate approximate benefits for the dashboard but again this is extra expense and a drain on the scheme which has limited resources.