6 November 2020
It’s been good to see steady progress being made on the plans for Pensions Dashboards in recent weeks. Whilst some have criticised the slow planned timetable, my view is that it is better to take the time to get this right.
I set out below some reflections on the passage of this aspect of the Bill through parliament, and some observations from the recent publications on dashboards from MaPS.
Parliamentary proceedings on the Pension Schemes Bill as regards pension dashboards
The Pension Schemes Bill is currently working its way through the House of Commons, with the final day of debate (for now) expected to be on Monday 15th November.
In the House of Lords, the Government was defeated on two measures relating to pension dashboards:
- An amendment prohibiting ‘transactions’ from taking place on dashboards; the concern has been that if individuals can see all their pensions in one place on a privately run dashboard and can then, ‘at the push of a button’, move their pensions around, this could be an open goal for scammers; the Lords were keen to put some ‘friction’ in the process between seeing what pensions you have and moving them around;
- An amendment designed to give the public service dashboard run by the Money and Pensions service a ‘head start’ of one year before private sector dashboards were allowed to operate; the Lords were keen that people use a not-for-profit dashboard in preference to one run by a commercial organisation, and felt that by giving the public service dashboard time to get established it would become the first place people would look.
However, in the House of Commons the DWP indicated that it would seek to overturn all defeats on this Bill in the House of Lords and on Tuesday 3rd November it successfully amended the Bill to take out these changes.
Once the Bill has completed its process through the House of Commons on 15th November it goes back to the Lords. They can decide to accept the government’s position or could challenge again, potentially tabling new amendments on dashboards or other issues. Any new changes made by the Lords would then have to go back to the Commons for further debate.
Given the Government’s majority and the Minister’s approach so far, I think it’s a safe working assumption that there won’t be any material amendments to the proposals and we will shortly see the Pensions Dashboards concept firmly embedded in law. This is something the whole pensions industry will need to get firmly engaged with in the coming months and years.
Publications by the Pensions Dashboards Programme
The team based at the Money and Pensions Service which is overseeing the Pensions Dashboards Programme has published three new documents. These are:
- A six monthly progress report
- A summary of the responses to the call for input on data standards
- A qualitative research report by PWC who interviewed dozens of pension schemes and pension providers to better understand their issues around providing data to a dashboard
Key points to emerge from these publications included:
- For the first time, an indicative timetable for the dashboard has been published; this suggests a ‘go live’ date in 2023; this is the point at which the programme believes there would be enough coverage to justify making data available to the public; there is a live debate about whether the first phase of the dashboard should be ‘finder only’ (ie simply listing memberships), or ‘find and view’ where the value of entitlements would also be displayed;
- There are widespread concerns in the industry about the challenges in providing data; issues raised include the time and cost involved in supplying data from legacy systems (some of which are paper-based), the need to turn what are currently often manual processes into bulk processes, and the challenges in providing an ‘expected retirement income’ in a consistent way;
- There are real issues to be resolved around ensuring that the right person’s data is being presented; for example, if there is a match on NI number and surname but not date of birth, should data be supplied? Industry participants were generally very nervous about the risk of ‘false positives’ and inadvertently supplying information for the wrong person. However, data quality is sufficiently variable that if the criteria for a match are set too high, there could be large numbers of ‘false negatives’ – people whose pensions simply do not show up on a dashboard.
- The dashboards programme is expecting to publish a proposed set of data standards later this year;
It’s pleasing to see progress being made in these areas. As I set out in my previous blog on this topic, I do envisage there being some significant data hurdles to overcome in order to get Pensions Dashboards up and running, but I would very much hope we can all work together to achieve this, and provide members with an effective dashboard.