Who am I?
Hello. My name is Richard Smith.
My pensions career started in 1987 (see my LinkedIn profile for details), and it was an absolute privilege during 2020 to lead the UK Government’s development of data standards for pensions dashboards (which were published on 15 December 2020).
Why I’m a pensions dashboard supporter
Whilst helping the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with the set up of Automatic Enrolment (AE) and the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) from 2007-10, I really began to understand how confusing and worrying most of the UK population finds the topic of preparing for retirement, and thinking about the future generally.
Without having to engage or understand a great deal, it would be great if people could feel much more confident about their prospects for later life.
Confidence would help people stop worrying so much whether they’re saving enough for a comfortable retirement and when (or even whether) they’ll be able to retire.
Confidence comes from information and knowledge. In particular, being able to see in one place all the retirement savings you’ve built up so far in your career to date. This is just what pensions dashboards are for.
I actually believe the whole arena of consumers and pensions in the UK will be much improved by pensions dashboards, because of the greater confidence they will bring.
Why I’ve set up dashboardideas.co.uk
Like many others in the UK, I’m a supporter of the concept of pensions dashboards, but not at any price.
The complexity and fragmented nature of the UK pensions system is going to make it very hard, and potentially quite expensive, to develop comprehensive dashboard services.
The Blair Government previously tried to develop an Online Retirement Planner with a similar focus, but the project was scrapped in 2006 after four years’ development.
The 2017 industry prototype and the 2018 DWP consultation brought up lots of options, each with different pros and cons, requiring extensive discussion and debate. By clearly airing the issues, I hope this site may be able to contribute to building consensus and help determine the best approaches for delivering UK pensions dashboard services.
For many years, I’ve felt personally that if I could see all of my pensions in one place, and come back to this place often (not every day, but certainly several times a year), then I’d feel much more confident about a) what I’ve already built up and b) my prospects for the future. From research, we know that many, many people feel the same way.
It seems instinctive to me that by being able to easily see the totality of their accumulated pension wealth, people will feel both more confident and more aware of what they pensions mean for them.
But as well from my long-term general interest in this topic, there are three specific reasons why I think I’m quite well-placed to support the pensions dashboards debate:
1. Experience: Establishing NEST broke new ground. None of us involved (whether civil servants or external consultants) had ever created, in statute, a national trust-based defined contribution pension scheme, with a public service obligation to accept all employers who wish to use it. And all under the glare of public and media scrutiny.
I would describe the process we adopted to develop the scheme as “collaborative innovation”. That is, the pooling of good ideas from a variety of sources, debating and refining them, and then packaging them appropriately for approval by Parliament, Ministers or other relevant authority.
A similar mix of collaboration and innovation across the whole pensions and technology communities and Government and regulators is essential for bringing pensions dashboards to fruition.
2. Age: I’m now 53, five years on from the classic age where “retirement reality” starts to kick in according to NFU Mutual’s 2013 research. So I’m personally in a position of thinking about what pensions dashboard services should look like and what I need them to do.
Plus, many of my friends and peers are of a similar age. Now that our children have grown up and are starting to leave home, pensions issues are increasingly a part of our conversations, helping me gain a deeper understanding of the broader requirements for pensions dashboards.
3. Circumstances: Despite being only 53, I am already a pensioner. My lovely wife Heather very sadly died in June 2014. She worked for Prudential meaning I’m now a spouse pensioner of the Prudential Staff Pension Scheme. So I’m already starting to think like a pensioner, with a personal understanding of issues around life expectancy, death, and making your money last until you die.
Many thanks for reading. Please do get in touch if you’d like to discuss pensions dashboards (see Contact page for details).