This is our latest blog for Pension Funds Online –
If you have ever been to India or watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel film sequence where their bus drives straight at the oncoming traffic, you will know that ‘driving rules’ are few and far between.
The basic rule is not to hit anyone and certainly not to hit any of the many cows, which are sacred, that wander the roads and who always have right of way.
I recently returned from holiday in Rajasthan and had an interesting conversation with one of our guides. Motorbikes are only allowed two people on them – well most have three and many have the whole family; you can only overtake on the right-hand side of a vehicle – they overtake any which way they can irrespective of bends in the road, oncoming traffic etc.; you cannot use a mobile phone whilst driving – virtually every driver uses the phone including those on motorbikes.
This made me think about the data issues that face pension schemes. The regulator has been driving through their very laudable initiative of improving data in pension schemes. The initial target was for all schemes to have their common data 100% accurate by December 2012. Now that sounds very sensible and indeed it is but, and there is always a ‘but’, what does that actually mean? Well it means that you know their name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number, the date they joined the scheme and their likely retirement date. You cannot however calculate their pension due, their salary, length of service etc., unless you have the conditional data present.
The regulator does lay out comprehensively what data should be held and how to test if your scheme has this data present, but has decided that there should be no specific deadline for when all of the appropriate data should be held. So effectively the drive has been to know who your members are and where they live, but not how much they should be paid and whether this is right or not.
This brings me back to India. They have rules but to all intents and purpose ignore them, there is an argument that the same could be said for data, there are rules in place, but nothing in place to make sure that they are adhered to.
And finally Indians are renowned for being polite and always saying yes to any question they are asked and giving whatever answer they think the person wants to hear, whether it is right or not. I suspect that many trustees are told their data is fine, because the truth is actually far less palatable.