TPR chair responds to call for consistent regulatory oversight of a pensions dashboard

The Pensions Regulator is “very interested” in moves to create a pensions dashboard, according to the watchdog’s chair, Mark Boyle.

Speaking from the audience at an event co-hosted by Origo and the People’s Pension, Boyle revealed TPR was in talks with fellow regulator the Financial Conduct Authority on the project.

He said: ”To address the very valid last question that was asked about the relationship between the FCA and ourselves the Regulator - it’s much, much closer than it used to be. We’ve really made efforts over the last 12-18 months to improve it. 

“You’ll be delighted to know the pensions dashboard is one of the things that we’ve actually talked to them about and we both have a significant interest in taking this forward. It’s still very early days but we are both - the FCA and the Regulator - very interested in this topic.”

Tech briefing

The TPR chair was responding to questions over whether the two organisations could collaborate sufficiently closely to oversee a pensions dashboard.

Representatives from asset managers, insurers and administrators alike welcomed the news, with many arguing that without regulatory compulsion a dashboard would fail.

Michael Roe, development manager at Origo Services, told the audience that his organisation had taken the technical architecture discussion as far as it could.

Without that push it just ain’t gonna happen!”

He explained that the technology was out there and said it was possible to set up a dashboard. But without regulatory compulsion or a legal requirement for providers to take part, Roe predicted the project would fail to get off the ground.

Darren Philp, director of policy and engagement at the People’s Pension agreed. He said: “It does need a regulatory or legislative push. We can have events like this and we can sit around the table and we can do a lot of good work but without that push it just ain’t gonna happen!”

Steve Webb, director of policy and external communications at Royal London added: “I think government has been far too passive on this… and it isn’t going to happen without a much more proactive government stance. In my previous role I might have stood up at a conference and said I can feel some legislation coming.”

In my previous role I might have stood up at a conference and said I can feel some legislation coming”

All of the speakers were keen to reiterate that they were not calling on the government to build a pensions dashboard or fund it. But there was agreement that a pensions dashboard which served the interests of the consumer could not be built without government help.

Philp said: “You can go so far with a ‘coalition of the willing’ to get something off the ground. But this is only going to be useful for the consumer if it’s going to be all encompassing and you might not get there instantly – there might have to be a staged approach, but basically everyone’s got to play.”

Webb said that regulatory and political consensus would be crucial for a dashboard to survive. “People think the ‘P’ in DWP means that pension projects should be done with and through the DWP but clearly it’s two regulators, two government departments and actually, this has a Treasury feel to it.”

Basically everyone’s got to play”

Yvonne Braun, director of long-term savings policy at the Association of British Insurers agreed: “It’s really good hear that the FCA and TPR are talking about this more. We need the DWP and the Treasury to get engaged in it as well. Government has good form in this… This can be made to happen if there is a coalition between the right people in government and the industry.”

Speaking from the audience Mark Rodgers at the DWP asked the panel at what point they thought government should get involved, arguing that legislation on ATMs in 1967 would have been made obsolete by technological advances within a decade.

This can be made to happen if there is a coalition between the right people in government and the industry”

Philp responded: “I don’t think we’d be asking government to set out loads and loads of specifics, for me it’s about the framework, the governance behind some of this and then you pass it over to the industry.”

Webb added: “Ideally government engages yesterday… I can see that government has lots of roles and I was always of the view that the last thing the government wanted to do was build this thing for all sorts of reasons. But government can send signals and if every DB and DC trust-based scheme in the land knew that at some point it would have to do this thing, it wouldn’t half focus the mind.”

Ideally government engages yesterday”

The Regulator’s Mark Boyle was keen to find out where the industry wanted the body to go next. He asked: “Could you each give me snappily a practical step that you would like us at the Regulator or the DWP to take away and do?”

Braun called for TPR to set up a steering group. “That’s what it ultimately needs,” she said. “And very clear sponsorship from very senior people in government and the regulators.”

The senior chairs of regulators need to talk to their sponsoring ministers”

Jamie Jenkins, head of pensions strategy at Standard Life said the industry wanted a “common statement of intent, which you each communicate consistently with your stakeholders.”

Webb said: “The senior chairs of regulators need to talk to their sponsoring ministers and say auto-enrolment is undermined by a proliferation of small pots… You, minister, need to be proactive to make sure that these initiatives actually work.”

“I just want the DWP, the Treasury, the FCA and the TPR to get their heads together”

Philp concluded: “Crucially we need political buy in. We need to convince the ministers that this is high enough up the political agenda and we need very firm statements that this is what the expectation is.

“I just want the DWP, the Treasury, the FCA and the TPR to get their heads together and actually talk publicly about this. Because that’s where I think the plan will actually come from and it will start being driven forward.”