When I was asked to write an article about the pensions dashboard, I thought ‘What would it be like to drive a car without a dashboard?’ I’d have no accurate idea about what speed I was doing, whether I had enough fuel in my tank, and whether I was making use of all the available functions. I would have to be taking in information from multiple sources inside and outside the car just to stay on the road. I might also be heading in entirely the wrong direction and have to take a major detour. All in all, rather exhausting.
What about when you have to drive to an important life event – say a family wedding – and have to arrive at a specific time? Without navigation tools, what time do you leave? How long will the journey take and what if there is heavier traffic than expected? Now, everybody drives differently – so that journey will be different from person to person – and has their own attitude to risk – some will build in a margin and some won’t!
And yet, that’s what we’ve been asking people to do in recent years when it comes to their retirement savings. As the industry moved, almost en masse, from defined benefit to defined contribution schemes, we took away the chauffeur who had all of the navigation tools, and told the passengers that they were now in the driving seat. Except for the few that were right near the end of their journey, most of them had only the vaguest of ideas about the destination or which route to take. No wonder so many take fright and disengage. It’s less scary to park on the side of the road until you get moved on.
This is why it’s so important to maintain the momentum on the dashboard initiative. The Government, having taken two steps backward, has now taken a step forward again and ‘will help facilitate’ the dashboard. And so we wait for the Department for Work & Pensions to publish its dashboard feasibility study in the ‘autumn’ (which, in my experience can extend to the Christmas week) before we know the extent to which the government will support the project.
In the meantime, we cannot let the dashboard go gentle into that good night. Back in 2016, we dreamt the dashboard would be live in 2019. Having made good progress, we’re in danger of stalling – perhaps trying to do too much before we’ll do anything at all. In the desire to get the data standards, security, governance and coverage right, we must not lose sight of the end consumer. The dashboard started life as a simple tool and has become increasingly sophisticated with each technical development. Millions of people now saving for their retirement just want to track their money easily and simply, wherever they are. Let’s not lose sight of that basic need to start with – retirement savings at a glance, online, in one place.
We have an opportunity to invest in delivering a tool that could make the later lives of all our customers more certain and more comfortable. I, for one, applaud the collaboration of our industry to date and urge us to continue. The prize of a better informed, more engaged public building a brighter future is worth fighting for.