Buck Bond Group
The never-ending data story

The never-ending data story

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What’s the point of a pension scheme if you don’t know what benefits to pay to what members at what time?

While the quality of record-keeping in most pension schemes is thankfully often at least sufficient to answer these basic who, what, and when questions, trustees and providers cannot afford to take their eyes off the ball in the quest to improve their scheme data.

The recently re-introduced Pension Schemes Bill provides the regulatory framework for the operation of pensions dashboards. Originally scheduled to be up and running last year, the dashboards project has had a long and difficult journey, and there’s no definite expectation that the initiative will be properly up and running this year. However, the need to have good quality, reliable data in readiness for the dashboards coming online is obvious. Members will be able to see, at the click of a button, how good a pension scheme’s data really is.

It’s not realistic to think that pension schemes are genuinely ready for the introduction of dashboards yet, but this project will happen, and trustees and providers must be prepared. Just last week the Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman, urged pension schemes to ‘act now’ to prepare their data for pensions dashboards requirements. This isn’t a new calling, merely a reminder, but it seems the message still isn’t getting across.

The Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA) has recently published a paper on how the quality of data is affecting the drive for greater scheme automation. Research indicates that demand for new technology to improve scheme governance, speed up services, reduce errors and enable easy access to pensions is impeded by exposure to poor quality data.

PASA found that while many schemes have begun projects to drive up data quality, data cleansing is still often seen as high cost/low value, and is largely executed on a reactive basis for large projects such as GMP reconciliation.  This being in spite of the Pensions Regulator expecting scheme data to be formally reviewed at least once a year.

The PASA research also suggests that only 60% of respondents believed they would have pensions dashboard functionality within three years. This is unlikely to go down well with the Pensions Minister or the Pensions Regulator.

Despite the Regulator mandating record-keeping expectations for well over a decade now, the importance of improving data still isn’t given sufficient priority by many pension schemes. It must be a continual ongoing process, or real improvement will never materialise. While it’s unrealistic to expect all trustees and providers to achieve 100% data accuracy, that must at least be the aim.