It has been a few months since my last blog post, and a lot has happened since then. Not just the global pandemic that is Covid-19 (more about that later), but also the significant progress in our journey towards making Pensions Dashboards a reality.
The first evidence of that is this, our new dedicated website, which we will be evolving in the coming weeks and months.
The impact of Covid-19 on the pensions industry
The pensions industry faced real and significant challenges as a result of Covid-19 and the lockdown as they endeavoured to continue to fulfil all the essential day-to-day operations to keep the pension system working – such as paying benefits and making sure contributions and records are accurately maintained.
We first saw the real impact of Covid-19 on the programme as we finalised our plans to publish the Data Papers. In early April we published three key documents. Our Progress Update set out what we’ve been up to and how we will be approaching some of the challenges that we all know exist, such as identity, security, and the digital architecture. The two data papers – the first on the Scope of the Data needed for dashboards, and the second on Definitions – provide more detail on what will be required from the industry and how the data displayed on dashboards will evolve. Initially planned as Call for Input papers, it quickly became apparent that Easter was not the time to do this. Given the circumstances, the papers were published for information only. Despite the extraordinary external situation, the documents were well received and have set the tone for how we will continue to share our progress as we move through the programme.
Fortunately, the pensions sector has adapted well to the challenges of operating in these unprecedented circumstances. It has also proven itself willing, perhaps even enthusiastic, to engage on the topic of data standards. We have spoken at a number of webinars and online meetings hosted by, among others, the ABI, PLSA, PMI and SPP and have gained some really useful initial feedback. We feel now is the right time to seek more detailed input to help shape our work on Data Standards; a cornerstone of pensions dashboards. This is essential if we are to make further progress this year.
Progressing work on data standards with the industry
Engagement with industry is critical to ensure that the eventual prescribed data standards both meet individuals’ needs and are feasible for the whole industry to adopt. We are therefore about to kick off a range of engagements with industry to help us achieve this. This will consist of an eight-week industry-wide Call for Input, running through July and August. Further information will be published here on our website shortly.
At the same time, we will convene a Data Working Group that will be drawn from those people and organisations who responded to our call for expressions of interest last year. We are determined to ensure that this group represents all sides of the pensions sector, so that we can finalise a set of data standards that will add value to all UK savers – no matter what type of pension arrangement they’re in. We anticipate this group will have its first meeting in early July and will continue to meet regularly for a series of detailed, solution-focussed dialogues. We will also be publishing further information on this shortly.
Additionally, this industry engagement will be supplemented by the findings of the research being carried out for us by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) with a wide range of pension providers, giving a deep dive into the data challenges in the industry. We intend to publish the findings over the summer this year.
Market and industry engagement about the pensions dashboards digital architecture
Alongside our important work on data standards, we are progressing on several other fronts. Today sees the start of our informal market engagement with potential suppliers of the digital architecture for the pensions dashboards ecosystem. This engagement is vital to get a better understanding of the readiness, capacity and capability of the market. It will also enable us to determine the final shape of the digital architecture requirements in an open and transparent way prior to commencing the formal procurement process later this year.
Interested suppliers are invited to complete a Request for Information questionnaire by the deadline of 31st July 2020.
Over the summer and to complement the market engagement, we will be setting up a Working Group of potential dashboard providers, including the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), to help determine what they will require from the architecture. We will also be establishing a Digital Design Assurance Group to provide assurance of the design and security aspects of the architecture as we develop the requirements for procurement, throughout the procurement process and during development of the architecture. This group will be made up of technical experts from MaPS, Government and some industry digital experts, who will bring their knowledge and expertise on similar successful architecture implementations to advise the Pensions Dashboards Programme.
Setting out the timeline
And finally, when appearing before the Work and Pensions Select Committee in March, we also committed to producing a longer term timeline in the October progress update. As well as highlighting all the dependencies in the programme – such as the progress of the Pensions Bill, procurement routes, and the staging path for providers – this will also set out the different phases of the programme, and ultimately when we might expect to see pensions dashboards available to the public.
Keeping in touch
I very much hope that the launch of this website enables us to reach out to you more often, and to hear from you more often, as we work with you to make pensions dashboards a reality. We’ll regularly publish updates including news, events, blogs and reports. You can also sign up to our monthly newsletter for programme updates.
Keep safe and healthy. Best wishes, Chris.