Govt must stump up cash to deliver pensions dashboard

Sam Brodbeck 

It seems the pensions industry have been extolling the virtues of the retirement ‘dashboard’ for decades now.

Report after report has confirmed and reconfirmed that it would indeed be handy for savers to be able to see all of their many separate pension pots in one place.

The logic goes that being able to see all your savings and projected state pension income would help people engage and plan.

In short, everyone agrees this is exactly the kind of thing providers should be developing.

The problem is despite all the worthy conferences and roundtable debates, there is nothing to show.

Savers still have to print off reams of pensions statements – after phoning up the Government’s pension tracing service – and do the sums themselves.

In December 2014 the FCA recommended a “Dutch-style” dashboard but that is as big a push as both the regulator and the Department for Work and Pensions has been prepared to do.

Altus director Ben Cocks says: “There’s been plenty of talk about it and lots of people grabbing headlines but not much progress.

“There is a long way to go and the question remains, what are we trying to solve here? The jury’s out on whether providers will spend money on it.”

Aegon regulatory strategy director Steven Cameron says the dashboard is one of several areas – including the secondary annuity market – where firms need to helped in the right direction.

“There is a will among a group of industry players but it would be really helpful if, even if the Government doesn’t put money in, it offers a high level steer as to what it would consider a good public policy outcome.

“That would galvanise the private sector around something more specific. Then the industry wouldn’t be speculating on what the dashboard should be.”

No doubt the DWP will argue times are tough and its cash is better spent on rolling out the new state pension and extending auto-enrolment to small firms.

But without a strong lead from Government, providers will be in no rush to dip into their own pockets to fund technology they might well see as enabling customers to take their money elsewhere.

In September last year Money Marketing revealed pensions minister Ros Altmann had put the breaks on two long running ideas, the ‘pot follows member’ model for transferring small pension savings and risk-sharing ‘defined ambition’ pensions.

Enabling a one screen view of your pension is far more important than either of these concepts.

Unless the Government steps in now the much-championed dashboard could become an embarrassing albatross around the neck of the pensions industry.

Sam Brodbeck is pensions reporter at Money Marketing