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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Twelve months of pensions dashboards progress

Rather than the 12 days of Christmas, I’m looking back on 12 months of pensions dashboards. Less tuneful maybe, but certainly action packed. In fact, it feels like our feet have barely touched the ground since this time last year. So much has changed since we released the first iteration of data standards in December 2020 and the dark days of last January’s lockdown.

The programme has accelerated massively over the past few months. With the appointment of our supplier Capgemini with Origo in September, our activity has become increasingly concrete. We’ve moved from the preparation phases and we’re starting to build the central digital architecture that will make pensions dashboards work.

But this is skipping ahead a little.

Our first major milestone this year actually belonged to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). February’s Pensions Schemes Act set out the legislative framework for pensions dashboards. There has been a lot of work on the shape of the secondary legislation since then, including the feedback from our Call for input on staging in June, which laid out our proposals for when pension providers should be compelled to connect to dashboards.

Our ongoing user testing and research into consumer needs and expectations will also feed into DWP’s upcoming Consultation on regulations. Ultimately, it is for DWP to determine the detail of when pension providers must connect to the pensions dashboards ecosystem, along with exactly what data they need to provide but we’ve been working hard to provide a strong evidence base for their decision-making.

Growing in scale and momentum

The size and shape of the programme has changed significantly over the last year. PDP is now part of the Government Major Projects Portfolio, which means that we’re officially recognised (and scrutinised) as one of the government’s top 100 projects.

We started the year with just under 40 team members. We’re closer to 50 now, with a raft of big appointments taking place across this year, including most of our technology team and of course, a new Programme Director. Richard James joined us in April, at the beginning of our procurement process to find the supplier of our central digital architecture.

As anyone who has been part of a major procurement will appreciate, it is a time-consuming and detailed undertaking, which involved gaining cross-government approval. I am extremely grateful for the hard work and commitment of our commercial team, who guided us through it all so effectively over the summer.

The pace picked up further from July, when we announced our ‘magnificent seven’ pensions organisations, which will assist us with refining the onboarding process and initial (alpha) testing of the end to end system. We’re already working with them in our new technical working groups. Their successful recruitment is testament to the hard work of our onboarding team, who continue to engage with industry and are currently lining up participants for subsequent (beta) test phases.

In December, we selected three commercial organisations considering providing a dashboard to work with during initial testing. In addition to the Money and Pensions Service dashboard team, we will work with Aviva, Bud and Moneyhub, to ensure we’ve tested onboarding and end to end processes with a range of potential dashboard providers.

Balancing consumer and industry needs

A focus on user needs for clarity of information and a secure system sits at the heart of the programme. And our activity this year reflected this. Our usability working group continues to meet monthly, to focus on the voice of the user. We published a summary of our consumer protection work in September, which describes our aim to provide data protection by design.

We carried out a programme of initial discovery user research from July to September this year. Then, in October, we tested ERI prototypes, to gauge consumer response to different presentations of information about their pensions. We’ve shared the results of this work with DWP, to inform their work on regulations.

We know that there are different opinions about what information industry should provide to dashboards. And we can’t hope to please everyone but we continue to work with and listen to industry concerns too, to try and achieve a balance between what’s ideal and what’s realistic.

It’s been an exciting year for the programme and there’s no sign of the pace reducing in 2022. In fact, the momentum seems likely to increase further, as the central digital architecture comes together and we work with our volunteer data and dashboard providers. I’m looking forward to working with the hard-working, resilient and positive PDP team, as we continue to make progress towards bringing pensions dashboards into being.

To close, I would urge all pension providers to work on their data, so that it is clean, up to date, online and accessible. PASA has recently published its Data matching convention for dashboards, which provides further guidance and soon there will be more information available on what providers need to provide and when, as part of DWP’s Consultation.

We remain committed to working with industry to support its preparations and will supply all the information we have, as soon as it is available. We’ve made immense progress over the last year and we’re not slowing down anytime soon. By this time next year, we’ll have a pensions dashboards ecosystem in place, with the start of compulsory staging approaching. Get ready for dashboards – they’re on their way.

Chris Curry
Author:
Chris Curry

Published: 16 December 2021

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