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John Lawson: Govt cannot wash its hands of pensions dashboard

Another pensions dashboard deadline has come and gone, despite the original intention to launch in 2019.

The feasibility study, first expected in spring and then delayed until summer recess, has still not been published. This begs the question: will the dashboard ever become reality?

Rumour abounds that secretary of state for work and pensions Esther McVey may be about to kill it off. You do not usually get such a smoke signal without a fire burning somewhere.

But what has been missed in subsequent analysis is the suggestion McVey is not concerned with the dashboard itself but with the government owning its delivery. Statements from the Department for Work and Pensions have confirmed it continues to work on the feasibility study.

Providers scramble to save pensions dashboard

So, rather than kill the dashboard off completely, is the DWP about to hand ownership back to the industry?

It has good form here. It was the industry that came together to fund and develop a prototype back in March 2017. It has the ability and agility to deliver a dashboard. Some providers already have their own customer dashboards; they supply data to adviser back-office systems and employee benefits portals. Aggregation is something the industry has been doing well for years.

That said, if the dashboard is to be a success it absolutely needs government involvement.

The whole point of the dashboard is to engage people with their pensions. Leaving off the state pension, which makes up over 40 per cent of pensioner income, would significantly diminish its value. And people who have worked in both public and private sectors would naturally expect to see all their pensions on it.

The other big reason we need the government involved is that some schemes and providers will not supply data to a dashboard without being required to do so by legislation. The laggards need to be forced to move their admin off paper and spreadsheets and into the modern digital world.

Pensions dashboard could face 15 million requests

The ideal situation would be the government, regulators and industry working together to mitigate the risks involved, such as keeping data safe and keeping scammers out. With appropriate involvement from all parties, we could have the first version of a dashboard quite quickly.

Combined with more guidance and mid-life MOTs, people might begin to understand the huge part pensions will play in their later lives.

The dashboard also has the potential to improve adviser fact-finding efficiency and accuracy by bringing this data into the digital world alongside open banking data. Greater use of digital technologies will be essential if advisers are going to be able to cope with an exponential increase in demand over the next 10 to 15 years.

Much of the industry – and ordinary people, judging by the success of a petition on the subject  want to get on with the dashboard. So, over to you, DWP.

John Lawson is head of financial research at Aviva


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There is one comment at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Christopher Pitt 13th August 2018 at 5:58 pm

    Excellent article John. Surely this is one of the reasons why we have a government in the first place, i.e. to make things happen for the benefit of society as a whole where a small minority refuse to co-operate. So, for the government to say that they have other priorities is a dereliction of duty – especially when it was their idea in the first place.

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