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Open the Green portal

It was possible to read the long awaited Pensions Green Paper and skate

over an important announcement on page 43 to an Online Retirement Planner

and an aim to launch such a service in 2004.

This is a massive opportunity for the adviser community to demonstrate how

it can help people in pension planning and the Government in addressing the

demographic timebomb. The aim of the service is to enable individuals to

access a collective view of the value of all their pensions in a single

summary via a pension portal. From my conversations with the Office of the

e-Envoy, it is clear that those working on the project recognise the

important role of the professional adviser in helping consumers understand

such information and plan their future.

Last year, the Office of the e-Envoy attended an Adviser Technology Forum

meeting to outline some of its plans for making information available on

consumers&#39 state and private pension benefits in a more understandable

form. Recently, it has asked the ATF to play an active role in the

consultation process for the proposed pension portal, as it can “represent

the views of a significant proportion of the UK&#39s national IFA market, who

are an important distribution channel for pensions and advise to consumers

and employers”.

We are organising joint workshops involving ATF members and representatives

of the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office of the e-Envoy to

explore the ways in which major firms and the Government can achieve the

aim of increasing consumers&#39 provision for retirement.

There is already evidence of how the pension portal could be used by

advisers to help consumers with their pension planning. The existing

Government gateway service ( already allows people and

their advisers to communicate with a range of Government agencies in a

secure fashion using the internet.

By registering with the gateway, people can file documents electronically

and receive notification when information or communications are waiting for

them at the gateway. The individual can log on to the gateway and collect

statements, forecasts and messages over a secure connection. This service

already allows for the use of agents who may act on behalf of citizens. The

most obvious example would be where an accountant acts for a taxpayer. The

taxpayer can nominate their accountant as their agent so the accountant has

access to all the information concerning the taxpayer and their dialogue

with the Inland Revenue.

It is easy to see how this mechanism could be adapted to allow a client to

nominate their pension adviser. If the aim of the pension portal is to

create an aggregated statement of an individual&#39s pensions, including state

benefits, frozen pensions, previous and current schemes, this is not an

overnight task.

It will be essential that there is an understanding between Government and

the industry of the realities of how long it will take to fully populate

such a service. A 2004 launch date looks like a tight deadline. It may be

possible to build such a service within this timescale but getting all

pension providers to create the necessary links will take time.

In the case of money-purchase contracts, many product providers have been

working on much of the infrastructure that will be necessary to support

such systems. The contract enquiry standards that have been developed by

Origo in the course of the last 18 months, a project that the ATF has

actively supported, should enable life offices to easily integrate with a

new pension portal. While these standards can support a full range of

pension contracts, there will be other issues that may mean the delivery of

values for some products such as defined-benefit arrangements may take


Once such a service is in place, however, it is easy to see the

considerable benefits to consumers and advisers. An adviser, who has been

suitably nominated by the consumer, logging on to the portal should be able

to access in seconds a full picture of the investor&#39s entire pension

provision and then use the planned tools to identify the income needed in

retirement and the shortfall of current contributions to bridge the gap.

In designing these tools, it is important that the practical issues on

advice are fully taken into account. It is encouraging that the Department

for Work and Pension and the Office of the e-Envoy are operating a

consultation process with the industry and that they have decided to work

with ATF so a consensus view from major advice firms can be achieved.

ATF members are equally keen to assist in the process of ensuring that the

Government and the adviser community reach a solution that helps

individuals, the Government and the industry. AMP Towry Law head of

commercial development Keith Webb points out that the recognition by the

Office of the e-Envoy, a division of the Cabinet Office, of the important

role that the ATF can play in consolidating the views of the adviser

community demonstrates how important the group is.

For too long, he says, the IFA voice has been under-represented or ignored

in the development of technology. The ATF is the vehicle through which this

can be properly addressed and is why so many major IFA firms are committed

to its ongoing development.

Aifa has also been playing an increasing role in the ATF and has been

invited to take place in the joint workshops.

Firms wanting to be kept advised of the consultation process should send

their email details to Any major

IFA firms wanting to know more about participating in our work with the

DWP/Oe-E or about the ATF generally should contact me direct.


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