Developing a pensions dashboard

Jamie Jenkins small

A pensions dashboard is only a question of time says Standard Life head of pensions strategy Jamie Jenkins. In association with Standard Life

The first ‘automated teller machine’ (ATM) was introduced around 1967. It’s a little unclear who invented it as there are various claims.

At the time, many people said they would never use such a thing. They said it would never catch on.

People were used to going into their bank and speaking to a person when it came to important things like withdrawing money. The first ATMs were clunky and unreliable, with either too few or even too many notes being dispensed a fairly common occurrence. In fact, you usually had to get a plastic token from the bank, specifically, your branch, which upon using, would be posted back to you in order that you could make a subsequent withdrawal.

They were pretty awful. But they improved. Dramatically. Behind the scenes connectivity and vastly improved mechanical reliability were the two key planks of evolution for ATMs.

Today you can find them all over the world, and they’ll soon recognise you by your eyes, so you might not even need a card.

The concept of a pensions dashboard is at a similar stage as ATMs in the 1960s. It seems obvious that people should be able to find and see all their pensions in one place online. Perhaps this will be all they can do at the outset, but even that will be a step forward. In future, I have no doubt they will be fully functional, allowing people to make changes and updates, to switch funds and consolidate old pots.

We’ll undoubtedly get there – and the technology has existed for a while now. But there’s scepticism about what success they’ll bring, the level of engagement they may engender and the whole thing looks just a bit hard to do.

Indeed, one of the key obstacles will be the will of industry participants to develop the technology to share the necessary data. We do need everyone on board to make it viable. This is an understandable reaction, but I’m sure there were plenty of banks that had no intention of having ATMs, at least at one stage.

There are also the short term threats of prioritisation. Many pension providers will have another busy year with the ongoing challenges of auto enrolment and the continuing activity of the pension freedoms. But both of these appear to support the need for people to see their pension pots in one place, rather than contradict it.

A bigger challenge will likely be a new piece of work to do in changing the tax treatment of pensions, but that’s another blog entirely.

What’s clear to me is that the development of a pensions dashboard is merely a question of time, not certainty.

As for ATMs, there will come a day where there’s no need for cash at all, probably quite soon, but I doubt we’ll ever do away with the need for pensions.