Richard James Published by: Richard James  

Richard James, Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP) Programme Director, discusses the progress the programme has made during its discovery phase with Capgemini and what will happen during its initial (alpha) test phase.

At the Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP), we signed contracts with Capgemini in September 2021 to supply the pensions finder service, the consent and authorisation service and the governance register – the majority of the central digital architecture that will make pensions dashboards work. Since then, the programme has moved through the discovery phase and into initial (alpha) testing. But what does this really mean?

Making the most of discovery

Discovery was the period where we got the team together, ready for the physical build. This was a time of creating a strong partnership with our supplier, as well as an invaluable quality check – to establish whether or not our earlier thinking, before bringing them in, was sound. Our prior engagement with industry, government and the regulators meant that we started from a good place.

We used the time to firm up our delivery plans and approach, developing the level of detail in architecture and organisational plans. We also worked closely with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in preparation for the Consultation on draft Regulations for pensions dashboards. These draft regulations really set out in detail what the duties will be on pension providers and schemes for the first time. The FCA consultation on its rules will follow shortly.

PDP has issued information about the technical, data, reporting and design standards, as well as a guide to the code of connection to support respondents to the DWP’s consultation. While all this information will iterate as we learn more during our alpha phase, it should provide useful information to allow industry to respond effectively to the consultation.

Moving into alpha

The move to the alpha testing phase of the programme is really exciting, as this is when we start the actual build of the digital architecture. We’ve moved from theory to practice, as the digital infrastructure comes together. Gone are the days when you need to build a prototype in alpha, we are moving straight to our full build, which means that we’ll have our first live users testing the system in the summer.

We’ve contracted a supplier for the identity service, which we will integrate with the rest of the digital architecture in this phase. We will work with Capgemini to build the systems and test how all the different components work together. We’ll also work with the volunteer data and dashboard providers to test the end to end functionality of the ecosystem, as well as refining the onboarding process.

There’s no doubt we’ve got a great deal to do, in a short space of time. This is going to be challenging at times but we have confidence in our supplier. The question of industry readiness is less certain. We will share as much information as possible, as early as possible but we’re dependent on industry taking those steps.

Prepare to connect

For data providers ie pension providers and schemes, our alpha phase means it’s time to get busy. Pensions dashboards are coming. In a few months’ time, all that we’ve described will exist. If you haven’t already started working on your preparations to connect, you need to do so. Engage with the information we provide, work on ensuring your data is clean and digitally accessible, get a budget and a plan into place to prepare for onboarding.

For potential dashboard providers, we will share the information that we gain from connecting our volunteer providers and refining our design standards. You should see an ongoing supply of information from us, during this phase. The FCA will consult shortly on its rules – this should provide a great opportunity to engage and start preparing for business.

For consumers, it’s early days yet as we’re still building the technology. But we’re drawing closer to the point when the first users will engage with dashboards. Initially this will be a small number of invited individuals. We’ll find them from the customers of data providers that are already connected to the system.

This is an exciting time for all of us in the programme. I can’t wait to see my own dashboard and that’s a feeling echoed by the respondents to our recent research. We’re building a really exciting tool for individuals, to help put them in charge of their retirement provision. And I’m looking forward to seeing the first users start to benefit from access to pensions dashboards.