Transport Troubles

Kevin Okell from Altus discusses Pensions Dashboard requirements in his latest blog.

Transport Troubles

Glance at any of the tabloids over the last few weeks and it’s clear that the summer holiday season is well and truly upon us. Grim photos of baggage mountains at Heathrow, long queues on the M20 and beaches packed with lobster-coloured Brits decorate many of the front pages to remind us of the horrors that await would-be travellers. 

For many of us, the nightmare starts with that initial trip to our departure airport where we face traffic jams, flight delays and extortionate car-park charges. Personally, I decided to de-risk that part of my annual holiday by employing a local airport transfer service. With a reliable fleet of authorised vehicles, they can use restricted lanes, know the best routes and monitor flight delays to ensure we get to and from the airport reliably and with minimum hassle. They provide bottled water and Imperial mints too!

Other options were obviously available. I could have done it all myself in the car I already own, got a friend to drop me off to save on parking or used the airport valet service to smooth the final part of the process. All of those alternatives involved additional risk and responsibility for me which is why I opted to pay more for peace of mind at the start of our holiday.

Some similar decisions now confront those pension scheme administrators faced with a requirement to get to the Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP) party. Rather than potential traffic jams or flight delays, the uncertainties relate to required response times and availability. Will systems designed to process large volumes of member data in batch, be able to respond to individual requests to find policies and provide valuations in a few seconds? And can administrators supporting multiple schemes across disparate technology be confident those systems will always be available when called on? 

One option is to pay for the equivalent of an airport transfer service to take on responsibility for meeting PDP service levels and reporting requirements. With considerable experience of high-volume online transaction processing and in partnership with pension data experts ITM, Altus has developed one such solution, Pension Fusion. That solution entails regular synchronisation of key policy level data with underlying admin systems which, for many administrators, is the only solution shape that will reliably address the availability, load and response time challenges posed by PDP requirements. But what about those firms who have already invested in their own equivalent of the airport shuttle in the form of a corporate data warehouse to bring all their disparate customer data together in one place? Surely, they can opt for the valet parking service to simply connect their warehouse capability to PDP infrastructure?

As is so often the case with technology, things are not quite that simple. Whilst it is possible to add a messaging layer to connect a warehouse to the PDP infrastructure, several challenges remain. First, you need to track the end-to-end journey from that layer to the warehouse and back again for reporting. Whilst not technically complicated, getting different parties to agree how much of the elapsed journey time they take responsibility for will not be straightforward. Then there is the added complexity that different schemes can adopt different matching standards for Find requests. Not only will these need to be configured into your warehouse search requests, but you will also need a mechanism to log possible matches, confirm or reverse them and report this activity back to PDP. And finally, however many systems your warehouse has been designed to synchronise with, our industry never seems to tire of mergers and acquisitions so you’d better make sure it can be extended to add more!

None of these challenges are insurmountable and, no doubt our dashboard ISP service will need to flex to accommodate them. But personally, if it were my money, I’d pay a bit more and go for the airport transfer service – Altus might even throw in some mints!