On the back of the most recent announcement that Pensions Dashboard is to go back to 2026 there has been quite the call for “simplifying” it all. In IT delivery parlance we call this Minimum Viable Proposition (MVP). So here is my view on what the MVP for Pensions Dashboards might look like.
Do we really need to see all pensions from the outset?
I would argue that the biggest complication with the whole project is that we have a ridiculous number of pensions schemes in the UK. And, more pertinently, a very large number of organisations that administer or run schemes. Estimates are that it’s over 200.
But really the largest organisations have a huge majority of the pensions. We are talking about the likes of NEST, AVIVA, Phoenix and Royal London in the DC world and Hymans Robinson or Capita in the DB world.
In fact this was always the aim anyway with the old staging plan. The big organisations were, and I believe still will be, required to go first.
The biggest frustration I and others have is that actually a lot of large organisations were pretty much ready to go 3 months ago and this announcement will lead to them mothballing programs.
So why not launch once you have 75% of pensions onboarded in say 2024/5 rather than spend another year or more adding the last 25%? I have never been convinced by the theory that there has to be full coverage from the start, and this would be the easiest way to deliver value prior to 2026.
Think like IT people not pensions people
The idea of staging by scheme size and putting the onus on schemes and trustees makes sense if you are a pensions guy. But actually it makes life really complicated for the organisations that have to do the work. A DB admin platform with schemes of varying size (you know all of them…. ) therefore has to connect schemes in various tranches.
Surely much simpler to join the underlying platform on a single date?
After all, it’s exactly what has been demanded of the DC world, with all personal pensions required to be part of phase 1.
The other part of this is engaging the administrators, providers and ISPs with a view to delivering value early. They know what the easy and hard things are. Listen to them.
Don’t change the basic proposal
Over the last week there have been calls to simplify the build or build a “find only” dashboard. For me this misses two key points.
1. It’s pretty much already been built. So by “simplifying” you are actually “changing” and therefore adding to the time taken at this stage.
2. “Find” is the hard bit. For most pensions, a value is already produced annually anyway. But the work is in delivering a reliable find service with good data. Again, being “find only” will therefore not reduce the time to delivery.
The last point to make on this is that I am starting to lose all patience with those organisations that still complain about having to provide value to customers. Yes I mean you chaps over there in public sector DB world. You have had 7 years to sort out something that frankly should be a given anyway. In 2023 why on earth can you not tell me instantly what my pension is worth?
In summary, it is my belief that an MVP for Pensions Dashboard is not created by rewriting the requirements for what should be on a dashboard but by allowing (or even making) those firms that are ready to go live as soon as possible and deliver a decent dashboard for millions of people.