We know that around 90% of schemes have a long-term target but too many risk their success by undervaluing the impact data will have on the process of reaching it. The journey to most schemes’ targets will take in numerous projects which can be enabled or derailed by their data. Whether it is great day-to-day member experience, GMP equalisation, member options exercises, Dashboard readiness or bulk annuity transactions, data will be key.
How many of these schemes have factored in data quality or, more specifically, data improvement into these plans?
For many schemes it has been a question of either tackling your data ‘just in time’ on a project-by-project basis, or via a rather daunting ‘big bang’ of cleansing all member data. Increasingly though, trustee boards which already have in place a defined long-term strategy, are able to take advantage of what I think is a more considered approach – and apply an intelligent blend of both approaches. By this, I mean, select cohorts of members opportunistically on a project-led basis but, when you open the member’s record for the project, adopt a ‘one touch and done’ approach on that record, therefore, readying it for subsequent projects too. Whichever approach is taken, building data improvement into your strategy really could save you millions. But more of that later.
Schemes have made great progress in defining their objectives - the strategic steps in reaching them might be thought of as a bucket list for a scheme. This will also be different for each scheme and may need to factor in trustee and sponsor priorities. It’s crucial to sit down at the table and talk it through with your administrators and other advisers, and to be sure all parties understand these priorities. Once there is a plan in place, your administrators will be able to analyse the data requirements to support it, and work with you to agree a clear plan before delivering the cleanse work. Importantly - and I can’t stress this enough - look at your data as an enabler to this strategy. Effective planning and hard work now, can prevent data derailing your plans.
My own real-life story is of a scheme where a data cleanse of historic records took the participation in an Enhanced Transfer Value Exercise from 50% to almost 100% of members, and brought an additional 3,000 members into scope. Transfers paid totalled around £350m, which reduced the buy-out deficit by £80m. Great numbers, aren’t they?
It’s worth saying, though, that the cost of the data cleanse work, undertaken upfront, was a tiny fraction of the deficit reduction achieved. I would urge you to have this example in mind, and the principle of ‘cost versus benefit’, when you discuss data with your administrators. It can enable, rather than derail, your strategy and, perhaps, save you millions.
This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine May 2021 edition.
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