Will the pensions dashboard, widely regarded as crucial for helping people to save more effectively for retirement, be ready for launch by 2019 as the government has ordered? While leading pension providers have begun work on the project, a series of potential controversies and stumbling blocks threaten to delay its progress.
The idea of the dashboard is that savers should be able to see detailed information on all of their pension entitlements from all providers in a single online location. This would help ensure fewer savers lose touch with pension plans that they began and subsequently suspended, while providing a much clearer overview of people's retirement planning provision in its entirety, enabling them to make further plans more effectively.
Last year, the government gave the job of getting the dashboard up and running to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), whose members include most of the large life insurers that sell private pension plans. The ABI says it is committed to having a working dashboard available by the 2019 deadline. However, consumer groups are growing increasingly concerned that the dashboard is being designed by a select group of large companies and that it may therefore not reflect the needs of all stakeholders. Last week, it emerged that the ABI is charging £50,000 to groups that want to join its dashboard design committee, prompting fears that the views of groups that don't have deep pockets will not be included.
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There is also concern that large employer-sponsored pension schemes, particularly in the defined-benefit sector, will not be ready to join the scheme by 2019, undermining attempts to ensure the dashboard provides savers with comprehensive information about all their pension provision. Many such schemes have previously done little to develop online services and may struggle to cope with the technical demands of feeding into the dashboard. That has prompted calls for the government to compel all providers to join the scheme.
Potential delays to the full-scale launch of the dashboard will concern ministers, who see the technology as vital to encouraging people to plan more effectively for retirement. The service could also be crucial to helping people source affordable financial advice on pension planning. It has been estimated that by consolidating savers' data in one place, the dashboard could cut the cost of pensions advice by as much as 25%.
David Prosser is a regular MoneyWeek columnist, writing on small business and entrepreneurship, as well as pensions and other forms of tax-efficient savings and investments. David has been a financial journalist for almost 30 years, specialising initially in personal finance, and then in broader business coverage. He has worked for national newspaper groups including The Financial Times, The Guardian and Observer, Express Newspapers and, most recently, The Independent, where he served for more than three years as business editor.
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