A prototype of the pensions dashboard has been demonstrated to government ministers on time, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has announced.
It is the first major step forward for the project, which aims to eventually unify private pension and state pension data in a central online service, allowing savers to know exactly how much they will have for retirement.
The project, which was delegated to the ABI by the Treasury, has been developed by 17 pension firms and six technology companies, alongside a number of government and industry working groups.
The Treasury first announced plans for a dashboard at last year's March Budget, then appointing providers to work on the project in September. A prototype was due by the end of this month, with the full product pencilled in to launch in March 2019.
ABI director of long-term savings and protection policy Yvonne Braun said the latest step showed the dashboard was feasible.
"It sounds obvious that in 2017 everyone should have easy online access to all their pension information in one single place of their choice," she said. "Yet, the practicalities of making that happen are very complex. The prototype demonstrates once and for all that the technological hurdles can be overcome.
"Giving people access to clear information about all their pensions has the potential to revolutionise how they think about saving for their retirement. Now, we must ensure the industry, government and regulators continue this close collaboration so the excellent work done so far can be developed into a valuable service the public can use."
Pensions minister Richard Harrington said the dashboard would transform the way savers interact with their retirement plans.
He said: "This project has enormous potential to help people keep track of their pension and make the most of their hard-earned savings, and I believe will be a transformational tool in providing the necessary information to people throughout their working lives to plan their retirement."
Origo, which worked on the prototype, said it was committed to ensuring the dashboard was functional by 2019. The firm developed a ‘pension finder service' for the prototype, providing a system to retrieve data for the dashboard from providers.
Managing director Paul Pettitt said: "Origo was always confident that the technology required for the prototype and, ultimately, the dashboards to happen would be delivered on time.
"The government wants live dashboards in place for consumers to use in 2019, and as the pensions dashboard project moves from prototype to reality, Origo will do all it can to help the industry deliver what is needed to ensure a positive outcome for the consumer."
The development was roundly welcomed by the industry, although some cautioned the next steps will be the hardest.
The People's Pension director of policy and market engagement Darren Philp said the government needed to consider compelling providers to participate.
"This marks an important milestone for the pensions dashboard," he said. "The proof of concept shows that it can be done. This is the easy bit though.
"Crucial decisions remain around compulsion, a public good dashboard and the wider governance and funding of the project. If the government wants to maintain the momentum needed to deliver the dashboard by 2019, then it needs to press ahead urgently with resolving these fundamental issues."
The ABI is said to be pressing on the government to mandate all pension providers to link up to the future dashboard.
AJ Bell senior analyst Tom Selby also welcomed the prototype but said plans for the dashboard were not yet comprehensive enough.
"It is important policymakers are ambitious in building the dashboard and make it as useful for consumers as possible," he said. "The initial plans do not include ‘crystallised' pensions. This feels like a mistake.
"A solution which excludes pensions in payment is completely inappropriate in a world where people have multiple pension pots and are increasingly likely to trigger pensions in only one of a number of schemes using the pension freedoms."
He added the government should also take steps to include public sector pensions, and that the dashboard would only be useful if it also showed the likely retirement income individuals may receive.
Both the government and the ABI hope that a number of dashboards will be launched over the next decade, providing a competitive environment with choice for savers.
However, in this week's Pensions Buzz, a majority (64%) of respondents disagreed, with most preferring a single dashboard. Just 15% agreed with the Treasury and the ABI.
The prototype will be unveiled to the public during an event at the Treasury's FinTech week on 12 and 13 April. A competition will call on developers and pensions experts from around 20 firms to develop potential applications for the dashboard.
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