The deadline for dashboard connection is more than 18 months away, but with official timetable guidance and technical standards looming, trustees need to get their plans in order.

Plans for pensions dashboards have been under way for more than five years, but the end of the journey is now within sight.

According to Chris Curry, principal of the Pensions Dashboard Programme (PDP) at the Money and Pensions Service, the subject should be discussed at every trustee meeting between now and dashboard day.

“It should really be something that they are talking about at every trustee meeting. It should be on the agenda somewhere just to make sure progress is being made,” Curry says.

The deadline for connection was set in stone when then-pensions minister Laura Trott announced regulations requiring every eligible scheme to be connected to a dashboard by 31 October 2026. Multiple service providers are expected to launch dashboards and the Financial Conduct Authority announced earlier this month that such providers will be regulated entities.

But while the hard deadline for connection to a dashboard is more than 18 months away, progress is accelerating and pension schemes can and should be acting now, says Curry. A volunteer group of organisations are already part of an advanced programme with the PDP to lay the groundwork for those who follow.

“There are currently just over 20 volunteer organisations who are already working with us on a closed basis, and we’re expecting that we should be able to start connecting those later this year as well. It’s a mixture of integrated service providers, some big schemes themselves, some administrators and some who are a combination of all those things,” says Curry. The state pension is also part of the trail-blazing 20.

The aim is to thoroughly test the system with real consumers later this year, well before the full 3,000 eligible schemes are required to connect. As well as ironing out any problems, the advance groups include several of the biggest schemes in the UK and so will create an initial critical mass ahead of the full implementation.

Stand by for guidance
For the majority of schemes that are not part of this testing programme, the next step will be guidance.

Last summer, as it announced the deadline for connection, the government also announced that it would not be setting the milestones for progress towards that deadline in statute but will instead issue guidance to pension schemes.

The PDP is working with pensions companies and the Department of Work and Pensions on that guidance, which Curry said will be issued “soon”.

All of which raises the question of what trustees can and should be doing in the meantime – what should be on that trustee board meeting agenda. According to Curry the answer can be summarised in one word: data.

The trustees’ agenda
In order to work, dashboards must be able to respond to requests from the public for information on all their pensions and to do that requires pension schemes to have the relevant data.

“Data is going to be one of the key challenges that that we face,” says Curry. “We have always known that. Fortunately, that message has got through to the industry and there’s a lot of work happening to make sure that data is ready. But there’s still a lot more to do.

“The one thing for anyone to take away is: make sure your data is ready, that it’s clean, that it’s accurate, and that it can be used to match with individuals who are looking for information through pensions dashboards. This is the most important thing that they can be doing now.”

The exact formatting of data will matter, since the ideal outcome will be that individuals can search using a variety of terms – name, address or National Insurance number.

Draft data standards were first issued in 2021 and the Pensions Administration Standards Association has issued its own detailed guidance on this issue. The official data standards will be updated and finalised alongside the guidance on staging, but Curry says this should not be an excuse for schemes to delay taking action.

“The data standards are not likely to change significantly, so I think there’s a fairly good idea of what the data will need to look like. It’s important that the trustees realise that the connection is only a small part of the journey and most of the work that they need to do to get their schemes ready can be done before,” he says.

As well as sorting data, trustees have significant decisions to make about how they will deliver a dashboard connection – connecting to a service provider or doing it in-house.

As Curry explains: “If they are going to do it themselves, then they should be speaking to us so we can help them with that. If they need an integrated service provider to help them, then going through that process and getting someone on board is really important as well.”

A tighter deadline for deferral
Some schemes may have grounds for deferring their connection to a dashboard. But the criteria for deferral are very narrow and, ironically, those schemes who wish to apply for such a deferral face the tightest deadline of all.

The limited grounds for deferral are if your scheme is in the process of transferring its data to a new administrator or is under contract to retender the administration of its scheme and the timetable for that conflicts with the dashboard deadline.

Schemes that wish to apply for a deferral have until one year after the relevant legislation took effect: that means August this year.

The push for pensions dashboards may not yet be a dash, but it is certainly time for schemes to pick up the pace.


More Related Articles...

Published: March 25, 2024
Home » Time to pick up the pace on pensions dashboards

More Related Articles...