The Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP) has signed up seven data providers for an initial testing phase, a step hailed as a “milestone” by one of the providers.

The organisations are a mixture of software providers, insurers and third party administrators, and volunteered for the “Alpha” test phase.

They are: Aquila Heywood, Aviva, Capital, ITM, Legal and General, Mercer and Phoenix Group.

Their “potential combined provider coverage” is more than 30 million pensions, PDP said. The seven organisations will work with PDP to test the technology and processes that support pensions dashboards. One of the aims is to make onboarding as easy as possible for pension schemes.

The basic framework for requiring pension schemes and providers to connect to dashboards is set out in the Pension Schemes Act 2021. Dashboards are envisaged as online portals allowing individuals to view their all their pensions, including state pensions, in one place.

Andy Curran, savings and retirement CEO, UK & Europe, at Phoenix Group said the recruitment of the seven providers for initial testing was “an important milestone in making the pensions dashboard a reality”.

“What’s under the bonnet is vital to its success and getting the right design specification and functionality is key.”

Paul Noone, head of onboarding at PDP, is encouraged by this latest step.

“The willingness of such well-respected organisations to engage early with the dashboards ecosystem is hugely positive,” he said. “It allows the programme to develop its systems and processes in tandem with some of the biggest pension providers in the market.

He added: “We’ve already got some significant interest from providers to work with us during subsequent testing phases of the programme but we’re still keen to hear from other organisations that would like to get involved.”

Compulsory onboarding to the dashboards ecosystem is likely to commence during 2023. The PDP has envisaged staged introduction of the requirements on schemes, starting with defined contribution (DC) schemes and large master trusts from April 2023, followed by the remaining master trusts, other DC plans and hybrid plans used for auto-enrolment, and then defined benefit schemes in the autumn of 2023. Smaller schemes would come online after 2025.

Discussing the pension dashboards project in the UK during a recent podcast, Eversheds Sutherland lawyers recommended trustees not wait to get to grips with dashboard requirements, with partner Laura Brook saying their focus should be on the accuracy of their data.

At least some in the industry are concerned about expectations for dashboards to provide information on estimated retirement income from launch. Existing disclosure regulations require providers to make this information available to individuals, but there is no standard form for calculating estimated retirement income.

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