Trust starts (and ends) with Truth. In a #FAKENEWS or an ‘alt-truth’ world, the modern consumer is overwhelmed with information and increasingly doesn’t trust it. The 2019 Edelmann Trust Barometer has two stark findings: only 47% of people trust the media and 73% worry false information or fake news can be used as a weapon. We’ve already seen pain in the pensions industry, as scammers have proven they do a much better job of engendering trust and communicating with members. Although you’d argue it’s much easier to do it when you don’t have to observe minor irritations, such as the Law.
There’s hope, in Edelmann’s 2019 results. Financial services industry trust ratings are the highest they’ve been in five years (admittedly from a pretty low base - 57%), and an impressive 78% trust firms in the technology industry. If you couple that with the 75% of people who trust their employers, then Pensions Dashboards may be well received. Yet:
We can crunch the numbers all we like but people don’t engage with statistics. They engage emotionally before they engage rationally. Relationships only work where there’s trust, so how do we create that? Chris Connelly, our Propositions and Solutions Director sat down with Kim Gubler, Chair, PASA to find out.
CC (Chris Connelly): In your opinion, will the Dashboard earn peoples trust, and if so, How?
KG (Kim Gubler): Yes. For the first time in this industry we have an initiative built on openness. It’s critical we deliver the truth and we live up to our promises. Trust isn’t a “one and done” process. It’s the consistent delivery of truth.
We could take a more systemic interpretation of three key behaviours of trust and see how they more readily apply to the Dashboard. The first is truth. Truth through data integrity and benefit accuracy. Second is openness, ensuring accessibility and inclusivity. Lastly it’s comfort. The comfort of security, availability and usability.
There’s one more aspect of ‘comfort’ we need to address - understanding. We’ve wrestled for what seems like forever with its major barrier, which of course is the complexity of the subject matter. People need to be willing to find time to understand something. We can help by reducing the time they need, and by being better communicators to reduce the complexity.
CC: I agree, communication is obviously key here, Dashboards aren’t just a technical integration exercise. However, we need to consider the whole member journey. How do you see the technology challenges working hand in hand with the usability of the Dashboard?
KG: Dashboards are the perfect vehicles to help understanding. We immediately reduce people’s time by searching for their benefits and collating them in one place.
It’s incumbent on us as an industry to facilitate the smoothness of that transaction. If we make it difficult, we don’t earn back anyone’s trust. We will not exhibit openness. People will already feel vulnerable exploring a topic they probably know little about: making it difficult won’t help. People will welcome knowing they are safe online, but Dashboards must be usable to help them achieve better outcomes.
CC: Every time we talk about something new, we keep going back to the same weakness: data. If we are about to expose information to millions of members, all in one place, accurate data is going to be key to driving trust with the member. And yet the need to keep data clean and accurate is already enshrined in legislation and under the Regulator’s oversight. Who do you believe is responsible for the governance of that data and what do they need to do that they might not already be doing?
KG: Pension providers, trustees and administrators will have to play their part – as custodians of the truth. They’re responsible for both data integrity and benefit accuracy. They also need to be ready to make that data accessible. The more data providers get involved in Dashboards the more members will be included.
It’s fair to say we lack certainty over such things as member coverage and the exact data items required, but this must not hold schemes and providers back from their essential preparations. We know that Dashboards are essentially a new, automated, way for our members to find us and ask for a benefit statement (in essence). So all schemes and providers can examine their data, processes and calculation coverage to see where work is required to bring automated benefit statement coverage up towards 100%.
CC: Most schemes who have reported to the Regulator have only reported their Common Data checks rather than their Scheme-Specific Checks. Thinking about what a dashboard will demand of you, what would you prioritise if you were unsure about your data?
KG: If you need to prioritise anything first, it should be the identification data. (Names, dates of birth, addresses, NI Numbers…) Security of the Dashboard infrastructure depends upon schemes and providers matching requests from dashboards to their own member records accurately and with zero doubt over identity.
CC: Yes, completely. Benefit accuracy is obviously important too, but not as critical as making sure you’re communicating information to the right member. Beyond data, what are your major concerns that could diminish the trust of the dashboard?
KG: Inclusivity is important. There’s a very real risk Dashboards will be dismissed as “something else that doesn’t work properly” if any pension benefits appear to be missing. OR perhaps the bigger risk is a member, unsure of whether they have benefits at all, see a short list of benefits and believe it to be complete when it may not be. Either way, trust erodes.
It’s for this reason PASA (the Pensions Administration Standards Association) has been championing a message of ‘breadth over depth’, at least for the early iterations of Dashboards.
There are many other trust-eroding factors in pensions: complexity, scandals, scamming, poor investment performance, costs and charges, mistakes, slow service, lack of automation… Dashboards don’t resolve them all on their own, but if they help understanding and demonstrate the industry is pulling together to improve the outcomes for its customers, then we’ll start to re-build trust. Once we have trust, we can resolve these other issues out in the daylight.
CC: A long list of woes there, but you’re right: Dashboard isn’t a panacea, but perhaps is the important catalyst to encourage a wider raft of improvements. We saw a rapid growth in automated data interfacing as a by-product of Auto-Enrolment, so let’s hope a new surge of data cleansing and benefit automation can be the added benefit of Dashboards. So finally, what would be your summary thoughts on the re-growth of trust arising from a successful Pensions Dashboard roll-out?
KG: We don’t have to get everything perfect, but we must deliver a useful Dashboard community from the start. Thereafter we can help maintain the trust we re-earn by continuing to deliver on our promises. We can add new information, we can address new issues as they arise, shine our light of transparency into other dark corners. As we grow the trust and increase understanding we can also evolve the mission of Dashboards, bringing more information into the light, rebuilding the erosion of trust as we go.
Dashboards are the industry’s opportunity to rise above the clamour and miasma of fake news and horror stories and be the lighthouse guiding our members towards the safe harbour of truth.
CC: Thank You Kim.
As well as their day jobs, Chris and Kim both work for PASA; the Pensions Administration Standards Association. Kim chairs the association’s board and Chris chairs its Pensions Dashboard Working Group.
Kim has also been elected to the Industry Delivery Group’s steering committee overseeing the Money and Pensions Service’s delivery of the Industry’s Dashboard. She is joined on that steering group by our own Andrew Lowe, Director at EQ Paymaster, who is representing the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.
This interview first appeared as an article in Pension Funds Online, PLSA hard copy edition 16/10. It will be published online in due course.