Simon Kirby – 2016 Speech on the Pensions Dashboard

The speech made by Simon Kirby, the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, at Aviva Digital Garage in London on 12 September 2016.

Spirit of innovation

Thanks Andrew (Brem – Aviva Chief Digital Officer) for that introduction, and even more so for hosting us in such a perfect example of Shoreditch cool!

I like to think, as a Brighton MP, that I’m used to seeing some pretty trendy establishments, but this ‘Digital Garage’ is a whole new level.

And as someone who has started various businesses myself, I have to say I’m very envious of all the cutting edge start-ups which are getting to make the most of this space to develop their ideas.

So an enormous well done to Aviva for backing them.

Because I’ve long been a huge believer that it’s our creativity, our passion for innovation, that is one of the main factors in this country’s success in business. It’s our new ideas, our new ways of thinking, our new products that really help create new jobs and get our economy growing.

Success Post-Referendum

Now I know some of you have concerns about how the vote to leave the EU might affect our businesses.

And, of course, our access to the single market has been important, for the financial sector in particular.

But it’s not the only foundation of our prosperity.

It’s not our only route to success.

We have a lot to be positive about.

Our economy is fundamentally strong.

We have sensible regulation.

We have talent and skills in abundance.

And we have creativity and cutting edge technology.

So in the Treasury, just as across government, we’ve spent the summer looking at the consequences, and of course opportunities, associated with our exit.

And I’ll be playing my own part in making Brexit a success for the UK’s vital financial services industry – which gives jobs to over 1 million people across the country – not to mention 10% of tax revenues.

Informed choices through technology and information

And in the meantime, the regular work of government is continuing at pace.

And it’s great to be here today to talk about the pensions dashboard – which I think is a hugely important step forward.

Because financial decisions are complicated at the best of times.

They probably always will be – these are decisions that really matter to people’s lives.

But what we can do to help is to make sure that people have the right information, in the right format, at the right time.

Technology has unlocked so many more possibilities for doing that.

Just look at how revolutionary things like mobile banking and comparison sites have already been.

It’s time for pensions to catch up.

Because for most people, it’s their pension which is their largest financial asset.

And if we have better information available, we can make much more effective decisions. From choosing how much we save, to what products we use to do so.

And what the dashboard can do, is unlock a huge amount of information to inform the choices people make.

How different would people’s engagement with pensions be if you could review your pension balances as part of your online banking?

Or if you could change how you save into a pension at the click of a button?

Or if personalised pension forecasts could be run on a mobile app?

Design of the dashboard

So that’s why we need a pensions dashboard to unleash this kind of potential.

And for it to really be effective, I think there are three main principles that must underpin its whole design.

Firstly, it will need to be open.

No single dashboard can meet the needs of millions of people who all have very different individual circumstances.

There is definitely no government website that could do that either.

There is no monopoly of wisdom.

The dashboard needs to be an infrastructure of open standards – like a common language and system for finding, collating, and sharing pension information.

And it should be open to a range of companies who can meet basic standards of security and data protection – including banks and fintechs, not just pension providers.

They should be able to access its information to deliver the products or advice their customers ask for.

Secondly, the dashboard needs to be flexible.

It is unrealistic to expect every provider to be ready to contribute the same data to the dashboard at the same time.

It is probably impossible to present all the different types of pensions in exactly the same way.

And who knows how technology or other changes might transform pensions in the future?

The infrastructure therefore needs to be built in such a way that it can adapt and expand over time

It cannot be a single, monolithic IT platform set in stone forever.

Finally, the dashboard needs to be reliable.

Because if we want to encourage people to save more, then they need to be able to trust in pensions. That starts with people being able to access basic information, across all their pension pots, without having to pay to do so.

There’s nothing wrong with charging for useful services – be it advice, savings plans, consolidation services or other possibilities that don’t yet exist.

But we need to get the free provision of the basic information right, and make sure it’s consistent across different types of pensions.

The State Pension will be a part of that.

And I’m keen to see the whole industry work together to set the minimum standards for how data is shared.

We want that process to happen through the excellent voluntary collaboration we’ve seen to date.

But if there are difficulties getting everyone on board, then we’ll certainly look at legislation or regulation instead.

So I would encourage everyone to start on this as soon as possible.

Making it happen

So how do we get this flexible, and reliable dashboard off the ground?

Because we’ve said very clearly that we want this up and running and ready for consumers to use by 2019.

Well, I’m very pleased to be able to announce today that eleven organisations have made a fantastic new commitment to make the dashboard a reality.

Aviva, Aon, B&CE, HSBC, LV, Nest, Now:Pensions, Royal London, Standard Life, Willis Towers Watson, and Zurich have agreed to work together to build a first working prototype of the dashboard by March 2017.

And particular thanks must also go to the Association of British Insurers for agreeing to project manage the whole process. Together, these organisations will be leading the way forward in making the dashboard a reality.

They’ll be looking at how to develop open, common standards.

How to get the right governance structures.

And how to overcome some of the tricky technical challenges.

So I want to congratulate all these companies on taking on the challenge of setting up this first pilot.

And I have no doubt that they will reap the rewards of their efforts.

Innovation is a race and rewards those who press ahead.

So if you are a pension provider who wants to participate in the pilot, you still have time to sign up to the same commitments as these companies and help develop this dashboard.


So this is an important milestone, and one which in my new role as the Economic Secretary to the Treasury I’m excited to get behind.

In the Treasury, we’ll be supporting the pilot all the way.

Not only by seeking views across organisations about the best ways to go about it.

But by providing top-level guidance and independent challenge.

So I’m confident this project will be a success.

Because we’re already seeing great collaboration across organisations to make it happen.

And we know how much creativity and innovation this sector has to offer.

So I’m confident that when it comes to 2019, people in this country will have a much better service when it comes to making the right decisions about their pensions.

And together we’ll be able to move on from the discussions we’re having today, to get on with designing, building and making the dashboard a reality.

So I wish everyone involved every success in doing so.

Thank you.