Pension dashboards data a 'mammoth task' despite delayed timeline

Industry experts have expressed disappointment over the proposed timeline for pensions dashboards, with further concerns that bringing together full pension data is a "mammoth task" for pension schemes.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launched a consultation the draft regulations for pensions dashboards yesterday, outlining a staged timeline that should see 99 per cent of all active and deferred pension memberships added to dashboards by the end of September 2024.

However, LCP partner, Steve Webb, warned that "bringing together full pension data in one place is a mammoth task and ministers have repeatedly over-promised and under-delivered on this goal".

“Back in 2016 there was a promise of a dashboard in use by 2019, but now it looks as though the first generally accessible dashboard will not be available until mid-2024 – at least five years late,” he continued.

“The biggest headaches include bringing on the public service schemes, which have major headaches of their own to deal with, and defined benefit (DB) pension schemes where complex new calculations may be required.

“It is vital that the government ensures there is no further slippage in this project and that the benefits of dashboards are available to the public as soon as possible."

AJ Bell head of retirement policy, Tom Selby, also emphasised that the size of the practical challenge of getting people’s pensions online in a safe and clear way should not be underestimated.

He stated: “Anyone expecting dashboards to be launched immediately with bells and whistles attached might be disappointed by the relatively slow staging timetable outlined today.

“Some savers may need to wait over 4 years to see all their pensions online via dashboards, although for those with pensions in larger schemes it should be much faster.

“The government has understandably focused on getting the biggest schemes to comply first as this is where the majority of pensions are held. Once a ‘critical mass’ of schemes has been reached and prototypes have been fully tested, dashboards will then be made available to the public.

“Communication of the information that is and isn’t included via dashboards will be absolutely critical in ensuring they gain legitimacy and allow people to make better-informed retirement decisions.”

Indeed, Aegon head of pensions, Kate Smith, warned that “this is just the start”, with more consultations still expected from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), setting out what pension providers have to do.

Whilst Smith acknowledged that it will be “a massive effort for all involved”, she emphasised that pension providers and schemes can work in earnest to get ready for the staging date now that the draft regulations and the missing details have been published.

“Although a highly exciting moment, it’s still over 800 days to go before consumers will be able access pension dashboards and view their pension data in one place online,” she clarified.

“Pensions dashboards aren’t expected to become ‘live’ to consumers until around April 2024. Although this is perfectly justifiable to deliver ‘critical mass’ of memberships, the so-called ‘Dashboard Available Point, isn’t likely to be achieved until then, it adds on another year of waiting and anticipation beyond the previously anticipated April start point.

“We’re massive supporters of pension dashboards and believe that, over time, they could be a gamechanger in encouraging people to become more engaged with their pensions.

"To make people sit up and take notice it’s vital that the government and industry work together and launch a ‘big bang’ campaign promoting pension dashboards.

“A co-ordinated approach setting out what pension dashboards mean for people could make a real difference to the numbers signing up and actively using it to find and view their pensions, and ultimately improve better planning for later life.”

PLSA director of policy and advocacy, Nigel Peaple, also pointed out that whilst the draft regulations help outline who will connect with initial dashboards, when they must do so, and some of what must be provided, they do not yet cover the detail of how, which will depend on lessons and sharing from the participants in the ongoing alpha phase of testing.

He stated: “It is this work which will help to refine the standards prescribed in the regulations. A full industry consultation on the standards will be necessary over the summer so that beta data providers and other dashboards can connect successfully from the autumn.

“The DWP has listened to some of the industry’s concerns and reflected them in the draft regulations. We hope we will be able to work closely with government, regulators and the Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP) on the many next steps in the development of dashboards so we can be sure they will work for savers from launch.”

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