Pensions dashboards are back on the agenda, following the publication of draft legislation from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The dashboards aim to bring together an individual's entire pension data in one place, in a similar way to how online banking works.
They will enable savers to access a real-time total of all their savings accrued through their state, workplace and personal pensions.
Ministers hope the projected retirement totals will allow savers to plan more effectively towards securing a comfortable retirement.
Demand is increasing for pensions dashboards as more workers join a new workplace pension scheme each time they change employers.
Having access to all their retirement savings in one place should ensure their pension schemes do not get lost through their career.
The titanic technological task
The DWP promised the initial iteration of the pension dashboards back in 2019 only for them to be delayed until 2023.
The first generally accessible pensions dashboard won't be available until mid-2024, however, and all the rest won't be rolled out until at least 2026.
The DWP said state pension data, which is based on National Insurance contributions, will be part of the dashboards from mid-2024.
Previously, there were no guarantees about the inclusion of state pensions in the dashboards, prompting stakeholders to raise concerns.
The phased rollout of pension dashboards is down to staging dates, which employers might remember from auto-enrolment legislation.
Pension providers with the largest number of members will need to submit their data to the dashboards between April 2023 and September 2024.
Medium-sized schemes will be brought in between October 2024 and October 2025, with small and micro schemes "expected from 2026".
Providers that don't share their schemes with the dashboards face penalties of up to £50,000 from the Pensions Regulator.
How will it work for users?
The DWP said savers will initially submit a request to find their pensions information and have to pass security checks to confirm their identities.
Individuals then need to provide consent for their information to be used for the purposes of pensions dashboards.
Once that's done, the pension finder service takes over by sending savers' requests to all pension schemes - big and small.
For each match found, individuals can request their information and the dashboard will pull the data down directly to an app.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimates there are currently around 1.6 million lost pension pots in the UK collectively worth £19.4 billion.
That total should tumble when the dashboards are available, due to savers being able to see all of their pension schemes viewable in one place.
Scottish Widows welcomed the latest dashboard developments, and said "it could be a potential game-changer".
Pete Glancy, head of policy at Scottish Widows, said:
"We believe the dashboards will become highly valued by the public.
"It's likely to be a few years yet before they are launched and people are interacting with them in these ways. However, it will be worth the wait."
The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) welcomed a "significant milestone", but warned of more work ahead.
Nigel Peaple, director of policy at the PLSA, said:
"There will be many more issues to examine and overcome in the coming months. This consultation is only one piece of the jigsaw."
Aegon, one of the dashboard's biggest supporters, said it makes sense for the largest pension schemes to have the first staging dates.
Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, said: "By April 2025, within two years of the first staging date, it's expected that 99% of memberships, both active and deferred, will be connected to the digital architecture and sharing members' data.
"This will be a massive effort for all involved. Now that we have the draft regulations and the missing details, pension providers and schemes can work in earnest to get ready for their staging date."
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