Catherine Economides – Design Architect
My career at Bravura spans more than 16 years, having joined the company when my previous employer was acquired by Bravura in the mid-2000s. Until March 2021, I was primarily a Consultant and Product Architect, dealing with the complexities of system design. Currently, I’m a Design Architect, which means that I now have a more strategic, overarching role looking at the bigger picture.
As part of my role, I am the product manager for certain projects, meaning I decide what a product needs through talking to clients and the market in general. This then feeds through to the solution architecture and in particular the priority needs of the product, i.e. what gets done and by when. To put it another way, I choose the destination and the stages we need along the journey, and the teams I work with are building the roads to get there.
The main product my colleague Jonathan Hawkins and I are working on at the moment is Bravura’s Pensions Dashboards ISP or integration solution – Dashboards Connect. The Pensions Dashboards is a government-driven initiative which mandates all pension providers connect to a central digital architecture to enable consumers to find and see in one place all the pensions they have accumulated over their years of working.
However, in order to connect to Pensions Dashboards, providers must have the means to integrate with centralised architecture to allow end users access. This will be facilitated through an ISP (integrated service provider), which is where Bravura’s solution comes in. Our solution will enable pension providers to connect securely to Dashboards and deliver the relevant data response to individual consumers’ requests.
As you might imagine, a government initiative to onboard every pension provider in the UK is complex. Especially when the end solution must ensure that when an individual requests their pensions information, providers can deliver it securely and promptly (the standard being set is within five seconds).
There are various challenges for the industry in tackling this kind of project and there is stringent regulation, so it must be done right.
There are going to be integration issues, as there are many different types of pension providers in the UK, all with a range of different admin systems. These include simple spreadsheets to sophisticated systems like Bravura’s Wealth Management Platform, Sonata, which makes connecting to an ISP relatively easy due to its high level of data quality and integration points. However, for other providers, this will be more challenging.
Getting data consistently of the right standard is going to be another challenge and I can see many providers wanting to go through a data cleansing exercise both to ensure they can respond to Dashboard requests as well as for peace of mind.
There are a lot of challenges around delivering data in a consistent and comparable way. For example, calculating and presenting like-for-like charges and performance/projection data is often calculated in slightly different ways by different platforms or providers. It will be a real challenge to level the playing field in this space and we don’t have all the answers to this yet.
Providing information in a performant way is key, as this will be measured against a set of rigorous standards, to which all systems will need to adhere.
Security is another big issue, as you’d expect, including where the data is hosted and how it is accessed.
Another aspect of my role is to ensure what we build aligns with wider market trends. With Pensions Dashboards we have two sets of ‘customers’. There are the individuals who will be the users of the Dashboards and then the pension providers and administrators, who will require solutions such as Bravura’s to facilitate their data and regulatory obligations.
The focus for us in determining what we build, is considering how best we can take away the pain points for pension providers and administrators when they use our solution.
There are many moving parts and I can honestly say that it is probably the most unique and interesting project I have worked on to date.
Personally, I am excited about Pensions Dashboards. It’s using technology to put the pension-holder first which has been a long time coming. It’s clear that there are many people out there who aren’t sure how many pensions they have, where they are and what they are worth, and this will help them get a better grip on their financial future.
The ability to see what you have and where it is, is only the first step on the road. What’s going to be very interesting, I think, is what comes next in the journey.
Once a pension holder has a grip on the value of their pension pots, the next logical question is to ask is – are those pensions performing for me, what are the charges and how is that affecting my future retirement pot? And on the back of those questions, what action do I take?
Will we see a facility that enables people to consolidate their pensions at the touch of a button? We are all waiting with bated breath to see what comes next…