Money Alive on team named ‘Consumer Champions’ at Pension Dashboard Techsprint

Ian Beestin — Marketing Director — Money Alive

Our initial pension dashboard was judged to be “over complicated”.

Dashboard — a screen giving a graphical summary of various types of information, typically used to give an overview of (part of) a business or organization.

Techsprint — a set period of time during which a technology development has to be completed and made ready for review.

Pension dashboard — a website where a consumer can see all their pensions, including state, company and personal pensions all in one place. Due to be launched in the UK 2019.

I recently attended the Government’s Pension Dashboard Techsprint — a competitive team event organised by the Association of British Insurers where participants were challenged to come up with a prototype consumer pension dashboard in just 24 hours. Here is my account of two days spent at Aviva’s “Digital garage” in London’s uber trendy Hoxton.

“The event will be centered on the theme of ‘engaging people with their pensions and building financial capability” were the words swimming around my head as I entered Aviva’s digital garage, the techsprint venue, for the first time very early on April 12. I was greeted by a sea of clear perspex chairs, screens, plug in points and the aroma of good coffee which I made my first priority to investigate.

With coffee no1 in hand I sat down and introduced myself to a team of friendly folks from LV. We asked each other about our roles and what our companies did. A couple of employees from the government’s Pension Advisory Service then introduced themselves and started telling us more about what the next 36 hours of our life would look like. As the official opening neared I grabbed the opportunity to top up the coffee and made my way through a crowd of folks in networking overdrive before availing myself of more of Hoxton’s first drug of choice (when in Rome).

Returning to my transparent chair I thought of it as a metaphor for Money Alive’s ambitions as a business — something clear and transparent, something trustworthy that would support you, nothing hidden — before my creative flow was interrupted by a short speech about toilet locations/fire alarm drill/security passes etc. Even tech entrepreneurs are not immune to such mundanity I noted as I sipped my second coffee of the day.

The room settled for one of the techsprint’s set piece events — a round table discussion about the potential offered by the dashboard featuring a smorgasbord of top talent from the financial industry. Powerful points were made by the very knowledgeable panel and as the room collectively ingested them I felt challenges, ideas and possible solutions begin to gestate. Michelle Cracknell commented “people in the UK don’t think the money (in their pensions) is theirs”, Ian McKenna suggested giving with a dashboard financial advice could be easier and therefore cheaper. Lesley Titcomb promised regulators would not be a “wet blanket” and reinforced the need to take into account people’s behaviour and the need to engage. Her point was reinforced by Phillip Walter’s strong assertion that the dashboard needed to reach across generations — there was no “on size fits all” solution or “silver bullet” and he stressed the need for personalisation. Will Wayne introduce a beautiful analogy of a dashboard needing to be like a swan — simple and elegant above the surface with members of the public not needing to know any of the detail about the effort going on under it. This agreeable image was cruelly put down as a participant claimed we were “ the second most hated industry” (slightly denting the room’s growing enthusiasm) but this doomful thought was only brief as news began to circulate that our keynote speaker, Simon Kirby, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister was about to arrive …….

After some excitement and much murmuring news began to circulate that Simon Kirby, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister was not about to arrive and instead a demo of the dashboard plumbing was hastily set up. I seized the moment, grabbed myself another cup of coffee and returning and returned immediately to see details of the nuts and bolts of the ungraciously named ‘back end’ emerge — quite a moment. At this point Simon Kirby, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister did arrive, the dashboard demo was (temporarily) dashed and we settled to hear the keynote address of the minister (well covered in Rachel Rikard Straus’s excellent article — see link below).

After Mr Kirby’s fine speech the dashboard demo was completed and we were then organised into teams. I found my fellow members of the imaginatively named ‘Team 6’ and we politely introduced ourselves to each other, sharing information on background, key skills and previous of experience of techsprints. Bonhomie was pleasantly brought to a close by news of lunch, (and more coffee) and what followed was a fantastic mix of delicacies (fine looking fruit, wraps, ‘trendy’ crisps and even cake — thanks very much to all concerned). More networking followed but this time a slightly competitive edge had emerged so folks were slightly less open and flowing about their thoughts regarding the roundtable, the minister’s speech and so we made our way back to tables to begin our techsprint task in earnest.

We had from midday until 9pm on day one and 7.50am until midday day 2 to conceive, create, test, refine and produce a working model and presentation of the Team 6 Consumer Dashboard. I will not go into any detail about the process but it was a pleasure to collaborate with the other companies in Team 6 (comprising Sigma, Pensions Hub and Wobi). All I will say is that during that time, as well as the consumption of coffee, (and later beer and pizza — again, thanks to all concerned) many ideas flew beautifully and gracefully for a while before being shot down. Many exploded on take-off and one or two did not even make it out of the gate. Ideas like ‘nudge lounge’ ‘pension professor’ ‘strictly come dashboard’ and our overly defensive “Don’t diss the dash” PR campaign, all hit the cutting room floor. What emerged from this chaos of creativity and turbo charged technical prowess was our ‘Pension Timeline with Life Nudges’ — Team 6’s techsprint survivor of the fittest.

A happy ending

I am delighted (and a little bit proud) to say that Team 6’s dashboard was awarded ‘Consumer Champion’ at the end of the techsprint and the ideas developed by the other teams in just one day in Hoxton were quite remarkable too. The challenge between now and 2019 will be for companies and organisations to build real dashboards for real consumers that meet the challenges so eloquently laid out by the panel at the beginning of the sprint. To be better than “the second most hated industry” is not good enough. People need to save for their futures and I hope the spirit of collaboration and the potential of technology to engage and enthuse people about their future which the techsprint personified will see us on course to do much much better than that.

Rachel Rikard Straus the Personal Finance Editor at This is Money / Mail Online wrote an excellent piece about the event in the Mail — we would recommend reading it if you would like to know more about what George Osborne pledged to deliver us all in 2019. As well as a great article the comments range from thoughtful and incisive to the paranoid and bizarre. If you would like to read it click on this link:

There is also information on about Team 6’s triumph. If you would like to read it click on this link:

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