While everything else in pensions appears to be moving on, the pensions dashboard program appears to be becalmed and – judging by the two events I’ve witnessed this week, suffering a confidence crisis.
On Wednesday Chris Curry met with cross party irritation from the Work and Pension Committee that the reset – which the PDP knew was coming from last October – has yet to happen, with no new leadership in place and little or no sign of the resource needed to get the project sailing to port.
The following day, there was an hour long call on which told us virtually nothing except that what used to be called working groups were to be renamed delivery groups. Chris Curry couldn’t make this meeting which left his colleagues to take some awkward questions from those who have dedicated much of the last five years supporting the dashboard. They have been badly let down.
Between these two sessions came Laura Trott, who clearly considers the Pension Dashboard the least of her concerns and gave short shrift to the WPC whenever they ventured to criticise her and her department. Clearly the Pension Dashboard is an albatross to be hung around another’s neck.
This “flagship project” is so under-resourced that it fell behind because it couldn’t plan beyond the immediate milestone. According to Chris Curry, in meeting immediate objectives it had nothing left in the tank for the future and had no choice to throw itself a red card.
The irony was that even after all this delay, there were still dozens of industry professionals on today’s call, many of whom will have spent more of their resource getting to where we are today, than the DWP have in trying to deliver what they haven’t.
Farcically, the first half of today’s meeting was spent rehearsing the consumer and employer research from MaPS and others which told the PDP how important the delivery of the dashboard was to people who had and have lost their pensions.
We know intuitively and from this research that people want to see all their pensions on a single screen, yet for all the thousands of pages of regulation and learned articles on the behavioural risks of giving people this information, no screen or information is on the horizon.
Much is said about the possibility of people getting scammed , if data is misappropriated, but little is said about people who simply don’t have the information needed to find and spend the money they have. The failure to deliver the simple pension finding service as a “minimum viable product” is very much the responsibility of the DWP and pension industry who have over-complicated the dashboard.
We are now left with the impression that because the UK pension industry is fragmented, the task of putting it together in one holistic view is hard. What has been lacking since the dashboard’s inception is a clear delivery path and the leadership to follow it
The WPC eventually gave up on dashboards and started quizzing Laura Trott on matters she wanted to talk about (Mansion House Reforms). Trott is many things and is, as Steve Webb told the Pension PlayPen on Tuesday, doing a great job.
She has chosen not to lead on the dashboard, she is distancing herself from what has gone before. Sadly she has not found someone to take the dashboard forwards. Until someone emerges who can do that, the dashboard will stay where it is today – in the doldrums.