Governance, data and teamwork 'essential' areas for cross-provider projects

Governance, data and teamwork have been highlighted as the “three essential areas” for consideration when working across multiple pension providers and their data to deliver an amalgamated database of member data in cross-industry research.

The report was produced as part of the Pensions Data Project, which is a collaboration between the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI), B&CE, provider of The People’s Pension, Legal & General, Nest Insight, Now Pensions and Smart Pension.

Key recommendations from the group included ensuring that project objectives and outcomes need to be clearly defined and documented at the start, as well as agreeing clear legal documents outlining roles, responsibilities and projections.

It also stated that a neutral organisation could play a “key governance role” in helping to facilitate and coordinate activity, as well as acting as an ‘honest broker’ outside the competitive relationships between providers.

In addition to this, it stressed the importance of being clear as to who will have access to merged data, and the need to agree and understand where liability sits.

The report highlighted a number of specific data considerations, emphasising that, where a project involves personal data, a data protection impact assessment will be needed, which should also help identify possible risks and issues for the project.

Providers will need to establish the impact of their privacy policy on the format of data, including whether data needs to be pseudonymised or anonymised.

A trusted third party will also be needed to act as a data aggregator, according to the report, with explicit instructions examples of how data should be laid out and formatted required in any data scopes.

Indeed, the report urged providers to “test, test and test again the data definitions and formatting with an initial trial project that is more limited in scope than the ultimate goal, including using both dummy and real data”.

Teamwork was highlighted as a third essential consideration, as the report stressed that “there is not such thing as over communication”, with “tolerance and a sense of humour essential to see you through the tougher times”.

In light of this, it recommended taking time to agree clear, common project goals, objectives and outcomes, and to allow time and space to build trust and confidence by running a number of initial trial projects that are more limited in scope.

Commenting on the findings, PPI Pensions Data Project lead, Nicky Day: “Delivering this project has identified a number of challenges and lessons.

"We hope our guide will help to highlight the things to watch out for and to avoid, when embarking on merging personal data across multiple providers”

Adding to this, Smart Pension director of policy and market engagement, Darren Philp, said: "This is a ground-breaking project that is looking to help build a better picture of what is really happening with people's pension savings.

"The process that we have gone through, and the lessons learned, provide valuable insights into what's necessary to successfully deliver a complex project like this.

"We are really excited that we are nearing the execution phase of this project and think that it will deliver real insights into how people save and the impact of government policy."

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