Proposed 90-day DAP notice 'too short'; industry split on appropriate timeline

Industry experts have suggested the government's proposed 90-day notice for the pensions dashboards available point (DAP) is too short, although experts are split on the best timeline, and whether a phased approach would be better.

The government recently launched a consultation seeking further views on the DAP, including proposals that the industry be given advanced notice around 90 days prior to this point.

Responding to the consultation, Aegon head of pensions, Kate Smith, argued that pension dashboards have the potential to be “gamechangers”, highlighting the dashboard availability point as a “critical milestone in the pensions dashboards journey”.

However, she pointed out that the dashboard availability day could see the pension industry facing unprecedented demand from the public, meaning customer services teams need to be fully ready to avoid being overwhelmed.

In light of this, she argued that the "mere 90 days' notice" proposed wouldn't give the pension industry time to gear up and recruit and train enough frontline staff to be able respond to members’ enquiries, instead suggesting a six-month notice period.

“As well as a six-month lead in time, we’d welcome an early warning system of progress towards dashboard availability point,” she continued.

“The Pensions Regulator is expected to monitor the state of dashboard readiness and progress towards achieving critical mass of scheme and member information.

"Sharing this information with the pension industry, for example, using a fuel gauge approach, would give the industry advance notice to help with planning. This could make all the difference to the consumers’ initial dashboard experience.”

However, Smith clarified that Aegon is not in favour of multiple dashboard availability points, for example by age cohorts, as this could weaken the messages underlying government and industry campaigns ahead of the pension dashboard launch and could be confusing for savers.

“We believe a big bang approach, with a six month notice period along with full transparency around the proximity of the ‘go live’ date would be preferable for both savers and the pension industry,” she stated.

Adding to this, ACA pensions committee chair, Peter Williams, agreed that the current 90-day period would be “too short” given the large amount of preparatory work will be required.

However, Williams suggested that at least nine months notice would be required, "or if a strong indication is given that the DAP will be, say, 12 months after that announcement with the DAP being confirmed say 6 months in advance, this might be made to work".

In addition to this, Williams argued that the "bigger issue" is a ‘big bang’ approach generating a very large number of queries.

Indeed, in contrast to Smith, Williams argued that whilst the 'big bang' approach may get the greatest public engagement, the industry will "severely struggle" to find the resources to deal with the influx in a reasonable timescale, explaining that the ACA would prefer a staggered approach, perhaps based on age.

The Pensions Administration Standards Association (Pasa) also raised concerns over the timeline, arguing that the 90 day period is not reasonable as it may be "too long for some and not long enough for others".

The association acknowledged that the pensions industry will require increased resources to support the pensions dashboards, noting that whilst recruitment and effective training would normally take a minimum of six months to achieve, in the current recruitment climate this may not be enough.

It also argued that the recruitment process shouldn’t be commenced until there’s certainty around DAP as this could pass undue cost burden to trustees, suggesting that a minimum of six months is therefore "essential" to allow for appropriate preparation.

However, the association noted that, from a savers’ perspective, the 90 day period may be too long, and could lead to a dilution of the impact of the DAP/Dashboards launch itself.

In light of these conflicting needs, Pasa argued that the key issue is uncertainty around what happens between now and DAP, outlining a number of recommendations that could help give the industry greater certainty in this period, similar to Aegon's early warning system suggestion.

In particular, Pasa suggested that indicative dates for DAP with regular updates could be used as planning assumptions for the industry, arguing that a launch strategy and timeline would be “incredible valuable”.

In addition to this, Pasa recommended that the DAP be linked to PDP milestones, as this could provide extra certainty in the planning process.

The group also suggested that a soft launch for the dashboards was “essential”, suggesting that whilst there is a great value in large scale testing, a soft launch targeted at a more representative audience would both help test the infrastructure from end to end and provide insight into the queries and next steps these generate.

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