PDP publishes dashboard progress report and working papers

The Pensions Dashboard Programme (PDP) at the Money and Pensions Service (Maps) has published its first progress report, as plans for further industry engagement and consultation are put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The progress update report was published alongside two working papers on the potential scope and definition for data standards for an “initial dashboard”, which, in addition to recommendations from the report itself, will be subject to further consultation “when the time is right”.

The PDP stated: “In these difficult and uncertain times, many of our key stakeholders are rightly focussed on very challenging and immediate priorities, whether at work or at home.

“When the time is right, we will seek views on the issues addressed in these two data documents to enable us to refine our working assumptions.”

It added however that informal feedback would be appreciated in the meantime.

The data scope working paper has identified a “focused data, broad coverage” approach as most likely to achieve an initial dashboard that “functions in the interest of the public”.

This would see find and view data as mandatory for all, or nearly all, pension schemes and sectors, with deeper data and broad coverage a future target.

PDP highlighted that this option had the added benefits of being easily communicable to all relevant stakeholders, placing minimum burden on pension providers, and facilitating onboarding in a reasonable timeframe.

The working paper also acknowledged that while some may industry experts may have argued for targeted coverage and deeper data, this would not satisfy user needs, citing previous research that showed individuals have a “low tolerance for incomplete dashboards”.

The second working paper, looking at data definitions, has categorised data as either optional or mandatory, acknowledging the complexities that can occur when developing data standards in the pensions landscape.

It added: “When the time is right, we will be exploring with all interested parties whether the data definitions set out in this paper strike the right balance between simplicity (for individuals) and complexity (of different pensions).”

Furthermore, PDP principal, Chris Curry, added: “The three documents that we’re publishing today are for information only. We are not asking you to take any action now, but we will engage with stakeholders when the time is right. In the meantime, we will continue with our work to make pensions dashboards a reality.”

PDP has emphasised the scale of the task at hand, which involves around 52 million adults being connected to 40,000 providers and schemes, and outlined a number of existing challenges faced by the dashboard within the report.

This includes establishing a sufficiently secure identity verification process, working out how to match people accurately to their savings, and addressing the varying types, and quality, of data held by different providers.

Curry added: “The vision of the PDP could not be simpler - to enable individuals to access all their pensions information online, securely and all in one place, thereby supporting better planning for retirement and growing financial wellbeing.

“However, the delivery challenges underlying this vision are significant – even more so in the current circumstances. Delivering this valuable service for society will depend upon close collaboration across government, regulators and the pensions industry.”

In order to combat issues stemming from user interface for example, the PDP has confirmed it will be establishing a user needs working group with potential dashboard providers (including Maps) and consumer organisations, to ensure they are able to “input into and benefit from the coordination of user testing”.

Furthermore, it is also currently developing a joint user-needs research plan with Maps, which will serve as the first input for discussion by the user needs working group.

Estimated retirement income was also identified as a key issue to resolve as it “goes right to the heart of user needs for dashboards”, with the report stating that it would take a “high degree of collaboration” and time to solve these issues.

As such, the PDP has defined a “starting position” for estimated retirement incomes, outlining this as the latest annual statement for active DB members, and the Standard Money Purchase Illustration projected retirement income for DC members.

The group added that it plans to engage with both the actuarial and regulatory communities to understand potential policy alignments, including engaging with the simpler annual benefit statement initiative.

The programme has also confirmed that it will be working closely with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), The Pensions Regulator (TPR), and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as legislation and rules are developed to ensure alignment with the delivery approach.

It emphasised that PDP is represented on DWP’s Dashboard Policy Committee, stressing the joined-up approach between key players in delivering the dashboard.

In addition to this, the group will be working with the newly established Digital Identity Unit to source a “functioning, workable identity verification (IDV) service”, with further plans for market engagement with industry experts to explore potential solutions.

The report also addressed issues around matching individuals to pension records, stating that “when the time is right” it will seek views on the issue to refine its working assumptions.

This feedback will be combined with indicative findings from qualitative research currently underway with pension scheme providers and schemes.

It added: “We will also start to engage with the potential integrated service providers (ISP) market to understand the solutions they may bring which could help the programme.”

Both the data working papers and the report also explored the idea of a dashboard available point (DAP), the point at which the dashboard should be available to the wider public.

The PDP highlighted that “extensive testing” would be required to discover what proportion of their pensions being found is acceptable to individuals in order to establish the appropriate DAP.

The report continued: “It is not yet possible to know precisely where the DAP will fall, though we estimate it will be somewhere between when 40 per cent and 90 per cent of all the UK’s pension entitlements are available to be displayed.”

A broader implementation timetable will be developed alongside the DWP, TPR and FCA but PDP clarified that this would ultimately be set out in regulations and FCA rules, adding that once this is known it will be used to inform more detailed timelines.

Curry added: “Throughout the evolution of pensions dashboards, people have understandably wanted to know when they will be widely available for public use.

“Even when the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has decreased, timescales depend heavily on factors including technological developments and the progress of government legislation.

“We plan to lay out a more detailed timeline by the end of the year, but a staged onboarding process should be expected to allow data providers to get ready and for all the necessary user testing to be carried out.”

The PDP is expected to publish further progress reports around every six months.

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