Shaun Gomm explores the pension dashboard project, which he believes will boost control over retirement saving - providing user experience remains at the heart of its design
Despite the population continuing to get older, and with people starting to think more about their pensions from a younger age, the pension system in the UK remains one of the most complex to navigate in the world.
Research by MoneyFacts has found that 65% of working age people don't know where to go for pension information, or how to save, and keeping on top of these retirement plans is clearly a struggle for many people.
People have, on average, 11 different pension pots over the course of their lifetime, according to the government, making it almost impossible to properly keep track of them.
The only way to access information about your pension, at the moment, is to ask the government for a state pension estimate, and to contact each pension provider separately to ask how much each plan is currently worth.
Outside of the UK, steps are already being taken to simplify how people can keep track of their pension, allowing them to store their information in one place on a user-friendly platform.
In Sweden for example, we have worked with the Swedish government and pension providers to deliver an aggregator platform that allows every citizen's pension investment to be accessed through a single portal: www.minpension.se
The dashboard is regularly updated, making it easier for people to keep track of their pension pots and has proved popular with the population - more than 50% of those eligible to use the system are doing so.
In response to this success, the British government has developed its own plans to introduce pension dashboards and simplify the means by which people can keep track of their retirement funds, through putting all the information into a central system. Providers and third parties will create portals to this central system, offering people a more direct way of seeing aggregated pension data.
There is still discussion over whether multiple dashboards will dilute trust and the overall customer experience, as it is unlike the central dashboard approach taken in Sweden, but it will offer choice and richer pension data.
While these dashboards are not yet available in the UK, and won't be available until 2019, early prototypes have demonstrated how they could work and indications are that they will improve the user experience significantly.
We recently participated in the HM Treasury and Association of British Insurers TechSprint, where eight teams were given the opportunity to prototype a front end solution (an app or website), based on the backend data platform that has already been established, over two intensive days in a ‘hack style' event.
We were fortunate to be awarded the top prize at the event, Consumer Champions, for our user-centered approach to developing a personal, career timeline view that could be used on either a desktop or mobile app dashboard.
By providing people with all the information they need in one place, from how many pensions they have, to the value of each one, and a projection of how much they can expect to receive each month, these systems will make it much easier for people to keep track of their pension plans.
It will reduce the need for people to contact individual pension providers and make it much easier to plan and take action around their pensions.
It will also make pensions much easier to understand and could be developed further to keep track of investments made through pensions, regularly update users about the value of their investments, and provide a wealth of other planning tools.
We predict there will be improvements in these early models after the government indicated that consumers will be able to choose between more than one dashboard suggesting market competition will be part of the equation.
While much of the focus from HM Treasury has been on the back end infrastructure and security model - undoubtedly an important part of the equation - it is essential that the final platform does not lose focus on consumer needs and expectations.
The biggest obstacle to engaging people in their pensions provision in the UK is that it is complicated subject matter to understand. Delivering an online platform that is secure and ‘works' in the back end but does nothing to solve the user experience or engagement issues will be a false economy in the long term.
The government is letting market forces dictate how the pension dashboards are developed, so customer needs and experience issues will drive the future design and development of these tools.
Ultimately, more focus needs to be put on the needs and expectations of the people who will be using these platforms - the end user.
While security and backend infrastructure rightly remains an issue for those developing the platform, users care much more about the experience they will have while using them. How the data is presented and interpreted, as well as the features and designs of the finished product, will drive demand and engagement much more than the back end infrastructure.
Like any consumer technology - and that is ultimately what a pensions dashboard is - the customer journey will play the key role in the success or failure of this product.
In its most basic form, customers want a pensions dashboard that makes it as easy as possible to find, interpret and take action around their pension information, in one place. Let's make sure we help them to do that.
Shaun Gomm is commercial director of digital user experience (UX) agency Sigma, which recently won the Consumer Champion Award for producing the best prototype for the UK Pensions Dashboard at the HM Treasury and ABI pensions dashboard TechSprint event
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