The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has issued a written ministerial statement providing an update on the publication of connection guidance which includes the new staging timeline for connecting to pensions dashboards.

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Data standards: a big step forward for pensions dashboards

As we head towards a socially distant Christmas, it’s quite clear that 2020 has not progressed as any of us expected. We’ve all faced significant logistical challenges as we’ve adapted to this new way of working, not least replacing face to face contact with Teams calls and maintaining communications with colleagues and stakeholders while remote working. All of which, makes me prouder than ever that we’ve reached the milestone of publishing the first set of data standards for initial dashboards, which will define the digital information that sits behind pensions dashboards.

This is no small achievement. While it might look like a relatively simple list of find and view data elements, it is applicable to multiple providers all working in distinct ways, within a hugely diverse pensions landscape. We have collaborated with representatives from the pensions industry, the Financial Conduct Authority, The Pensions Regulator and the Department for Work and Pensions throughout this year to reach this point.

A launchpad pensions dashboards standard

It’s important to remember that this is just the beginning of the conversation on data standards. We now have a pretty comprehensive view of what is and isn’t possible at this stage. While we are all committed to a gold standard of pensions dashboards, which will fully answer all our users’ needs, we need to start somewhere more realistic. And find and view is that starting point.

As our timeline indicates, we will reach the dashboards available point for find and view dashboards in phase four of the programme, once sufficient pensions are findable to be useful to a critical mass of users. We can then iterate and improve on this initial functionality. As our programme progresses, we will refine the data standards to reflect industry feedback, ongoing stakeholder engagement and insights from our Usability Working Group.

With schemes and providers onboarding from 2023 it’s essential that everyone starts to prepare their data now, using the information in the Data standards guide.

Further definition around estimated retirement income

Listening to industry this year, we can see that there is further work to do to define some areas within the data standards. In particular, how users will be able to view their estimated retirement income (ERI), which is a key user need. The lack of uniformity in how providers and schemes currently supply ERI information is problematic, as it’s difficult for users to compare differing presentations and determine ultimately, what their pensions information means.

Our approach for initial dashboards is to display the ERI as currently reported in the best possible way, recognising the challenges that this will present to the user.

We will also continue to work with industry to agree and implement a consistent way of providing and displaying a comparable ERI.

In the long term, as technology advances and the service matures, it may be possible to revisit what dashboards can do and allow them to perform calculations to display ERI.

We will be carrying out user testing via our Usability Working Group to understand how users will respond to different presentations of their data. This is the approach that we will take on initial dashboards, while continuing to work with the Department for Work and Pensions and industry to drive forward the most appropriate solution, so that we ensure that pensions dashboards fulfil their true potential.

We recognise there’s a balance to strike between finding answers and delivering to our agreed plan. So, we’ll continue to push forward with the agreed find data elements, while we’re working on the solution to the ERI issue.

More progress for the new year

Looking ahead to 2021, we have much work still to do, to keep moving forward with the Pensions Dashboards Programme. Our procurement of the digital architecture will start to create the building blocks of the pensions dashboards ecosystem. This is central to our work with data standards, as we will base our technical standards on whichever systems we ultimately use. We will publish a final set of implementable data standards once we have a supplier for the digital architecture on board.

We will continue our research, user testing and evaluation work, particularly around user needs, as well as selecting the first dashboard providers for user testing.

No doubt there will be further challenges, as we work through this next stage of the programme but we’re looking forward to continuing to find creative solutions. And we end the year, safe in the knowledge that we’ve made great progress, despite all that 2020 has thrown at us.

So, for now, I and the whole team at the PDP would like to thank you for all your support and wish you all the best for the festive season and a Happy New Year.

Now, onwards to 2021!

Chris Curry
Chris Curry

Published: 15 December 2020

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