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ABI: We are not cutting advisers out of pension dashboards

Trade body responds to criticism from Money Marketing columnist Ian McKenna that advisers are being left out of the loop

ABI policy director Yvonne Braun

The past two years have provided a genuinely good story about the remarkable progress that has been made towards a pensions dashboard service.

This progress has been made thanks to an unprecedented level of co-operation and joint working between all facets of the pensions industry, technology companies, consumers groups, financial advisers and Government departments. And the service itself has the potential to be revolutionary.

It’s therefore quite frustrating to have this cross-industry success story hijacked by a lone voice intent on making out there is some sort of Association of British Insurers plot against financial advisers. It’s utter fiction, and while we have no intention of engaging in a running argument it is time to set the record straight on a few points.

Throughout this project – and indeed common to many projects at the ABI – the importance of people getting independent financial advice and guidance has been emphasised time and again. Financial advisers are certainly among those we expect to be offering dashboard services. We have been clear that we want to see a delegated access function within the dashboard, and supported project partners actively working towards it.

Will all the bells and whistles of delegated access be there from day one? Probably not. That’s because we have to walk before we can run. But as well as offering their own dashboards, financial advisers will be able to sit down with customers and look at their dashboard information with them, cutting out all the wasted time pursuing paperwork and focusing on the real value – giving them good financial advice.

It also has to be said that while of course delegated access is important, is it really a service so critical that all the additional complications of making it work justify delaying delivery of the overall project? When we have discussed this with the vast majority of advisers, most accept the answer to this is no.

No major project can proceed with complete unanimity from everyone, particularly not at the early stages, because nothing would ever get done. But the report we published following our latest programme of work was based on substantial amounts of research and engagement and has been welcomed by most. Treating an implementation timing decision as being central to the entire project is too narrow a focus.

As for the allegation that this is an ABI stitch up, this is complete nonsense. We are very proud of the contribution we’ve made so far in supporting the creation of a prototype and keeping useful work going during a time of political uncertainty. We remain committed to helping and supporting the next phases. But we argued for Government to take up the reins of this project again and we’re very pleased they have.

The project has been successfully passed on. We don’t yet know if they are ready to implement the kind of technology solution we know is available, but the industry has delivered a successful prototype which has convinced ministers to make this service a reality and that’s a win in anyone’s book.

The ultimate goal here is to give millions of people easy access to information about their pension savings, in a single place of their choice, so they can make better plans and preparations for retirement; in many cases alongside a financial adviser. The majority of the pensions industry is committed to delivering this. The Department for Work and Pensions is committed to delivering this.

The majority of financial advisers are embracing the potential of the service and happy to help deliver it. It’s time the majority had their voices heard and that we get behind the next stages of this project.

Yvonne Braun is director of policy for long-term savings and protection at the Association of British Insurers

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