Retirement Industry Leaders Define Best Practices to Defeat Retirement Account FraudJuly 21, 2021
SPARK Institute’s Data Security Oversight Board Develops Standards to Help Protect Retirement Assets from Cyber Threats.
Review the latest press releases and find contacts for media inquiries on major policy efforts and regulatory proposals designed to strengthen retirement security for millions of American workers and their families.
Browse event announcements and industry standards in areas of data security, privacy and cyber security.
SPARK Institute’s Data Security Oversight Board Develops Standards to Help Protect Retirement Assets from Cyber Threats.
Today, the SPARK Institute announced its Governing Board elections. Ralph Ferraro, SVP, Head of Product and Solutions Management, Lincoln Financial has been elected Chair succeeding Rich Linton, EVP Group Distribution and Operations, Empower Retirement who has completed his term as the Chair of SPARK's Governing Board. Kevin Collins, Head of Retirement Plan Services, T. Rowe Price has also been elected as Vice Chair.
Today, the SPARK Institute announced that Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN) had been selected as the inaugural SPARK Retirement Security Champion. The SPARK Instituted presented Congressman Roe with the SPARK Retirement Security Champion award for his tireless work on retirement issues during his time in Congress. As a former Chairman of the ERISA subcommittee in the House of Representatives and an author of key parts of the SECURE Act, Rep. Roe has been deeply engaged on retirement savings issues and helped accomplish real change.
Earlier today, the Department of Labor (DOL) published its final rule to modernize retirement plan communications by permitting retirement plan documents to be delivered electronically by default. The SPARK Institute has long been working to expand the use of electronic delivery, which has been proven to provide higher-quality information, significant cost savings, and better retirement outcomes for retirement savers.
SPARK Institute, through the work of its Data Security Oversight Board (DSOB), developed guidelines for how record keepers can properly communicate with plan sponsors about highly sensitive Penetration Testing, or Pen Tests. These guidelines are not intended to provide recommendations on how to perform penetration tests or guarantee against a data breach or loss. Instead, these best practices outline what record keepers can do to share information that is extremely confidential with clients, and what those clients should expect as they evaluate a record keeper's security programs.
SPARK Institute and the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association (DCIIA) Retirement Research Center announced today the results of a survey of SPARK members on how they are responding to the coronavirus pandemic. SPARK members (including recordkeepers and other industry investment / service providers) were recently asked to respond to twenty-seven questions related to the crisis and implementation of the CARES Act. Twenty-one firms responded. The topline results showed the following:
Given the evolving nature of the coronavirus pandemic and the extension of travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the SPARK/DCIIA Public Policy Forum scheduled for June 23rd and 24th in Washington, DC. We will continue to support you all in these efforts and work together to foster our virtual community until we are all able to gather in person once again.
SPARK Institute today released suggested revisions to the required rollover notice, showing edits to reflect changes made by the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, or SECURE Act, signed into law on December 20, 2019. These redline changes are intended to assist SPARK Institute members, plan sponsors, and other industry participants in complying with the notice requirement until the IRS releases an updated model notice.
Leading retirement nonprofit associations team up to deliver member value and promote better retirement outcomes for America’s workers. SPARK Institute and the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association (DCIIA) announced today that they will partner on three joint projects in 2020. Their goal in forming this partnership is to more efficiently focus on shared goals and initiatives that promote the U.S. retirement system and improve savings and retirement security for working Americans.
New research shows that default electronic delivery for retirement plan communications could save participants up to $450m annually, supporting digital disclosure proposed by the Department of Labor.
SPARK Institute & FS-ISAC to partner with DHS on workshops to help employers protect employee data. Charles Schwab to host first regional cyber security workshop in Denver. SPARK Institute and the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) announced today the kickoff of a series of regional Cyber Security Workshops in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). With cyber-attacks a constant threat to American businesses, these events will promote cyber programs, education and other tools intended to help strengthen the retirement cyber security chain.
SPARK Institute and TRAU, The Retirement Advisor University, have agreed to partner and combine their industry training programs into one comprehensive educational offering for retirement plan advisors, providers and industry professionals. SPARK provides development programs to help retirement professionals gain the knowledge and skills required to become successful in today’s retirement plan industry by offering two industry recognized designations: 1) The Accredited Retirement Plan Consultant (ARPC) designation, designed for sales and marketing professionals and 2) The Accredited Retirement Plan Specialist (ARPS) designation, for administrative and recordkeeping professionals. SPARK training programs have been delivered to over 5,800 individuals in a classroom setting, and 2,756 individuals online – for a total of 8,559 industry professionals from 74 companies.
Most people have heard of a cyber security breach and cyber fraud, but do they really know what those terms means? Under what circumstances should a recordkeeper inform a plan sponsor about a cyber-related event? It turns out that there is a lot more disagreement on the definitions than you’d think.
According to a recent survey sponsored by the SPARK Institute and conducted by Cerulli Associates, small U.S. employers overwhelmingly trust the financial services sector for its expertise more than the public sector when it comes to administering financial assets and retirement savings programs.
In their latest publication, “Setting a New Standard: E-Delivery Best Practices for the Retirement Industry”, Oculus Partners’ President, Cynthia Hayes and her firm have issued a challenge to the retirement industry to hold themselves to a new standard in achieving widespread adoption of edelivery.
Newly formed Retirement Industry Council to focus on protecting 401(k) firms, mutual and pension funds.
The SPARK Institute, a non-profit, organization representing the retirement services industry, today released a new version of its “RFP Guide for Selecting Defined Contribution Service Providers.” According to Tim Rouse, the Executive Director of The SPARK Institute, SPARK developed the guide to assist advisors, consultants and plan sponsors in the important task of preparing and evaluating requests for proposal (RFPs) for 401(k) and other defined contribution retirement plans.
Today, The SPARK Institute, Inc. praised reintroduction of the RETIRE Act, H.R. 4610, bipartisan legislation that would allow plan sponsors to use e-delivery as the default distribution method for retirement plan documents.
SPARK Institute, a nonprofit organization representing the retirement services industry, announced the winners of its 2017 SPARK Awards for Investment Innovation and Innovation in Plan Design & Administration at the SPARK Forum.
With large cyber breaches and hacks becoming a regular occurrence plan sponsors are increasingly focused on insuring their employees’ data is protected within their retirement plans. So, to help plan sponsors the SPARK Institute today announced the development of new Industry Best Practices for how record keepers should report their cyber security capabilities to plan sponsors and plan consultants.
Three leading industry organizations dedicated to promoting operational efficiency in the retirement plan space including the American Retirement Association, the Investment Company Institute (ICI) and The SPARK Institute today endorsed the use of The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation’s (DTCC) Retirement Plan Reporting (RPR) solution to standardize and report plan level data across the industry.
SPARK Institute hosted the first meeting of its newly created Data Security Oversight Board on June 21st at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington DC. Twenty firms, from both the plan consultant and record keeping communities, participated in this initial meeting. The firms attending this first meeting included: Ascensus, Callan Associates, Cammack Retirement, Charles Schwab, Empower Retirement, Fidelity Investments, FIS Global, Fluent Technologies, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, John Hancock Retirement Plan Services, Marsh Risk Consulting, MassMutual Financial Group, Oculus Partners, LLC, Principal Financial Group, Prudential Retirement, Sapiens, Segal Consulting, T. Rowe Price, Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust and Willis Towers Watson.
At a time when all industries and government entities are facing unprecedented threats from cybercrime, The SPARK Institute has unveiled its plan to establish uniform data-management standards for the defined contribution market through its newly created Data Security Oversight Board.
A recent survey of retirement plan service providers offers unique insight into how they are planning to modify their business practices to work within the new fiduciary regulatory structure. The survey, which polled the industry and SPARK members also addresses areas where there is a lack of clarity about the new regulations, and specific information providers need to complete their evaluation of the impact the regulation will have on their business. A total of 117 members responded.
Today the Department of Labor (DOL) released its long awaited regulations redefining fiduciaries for ERISA plans.
SPARK Institute, a non-profit organization representing the retirement services industry, today released its guidelines on the integration of guaranteed lifetime income options on 401(k) and other defined contribution plan recordkeeping and web platforms.
SPARK Institute, Inc. released a comprehensive white paper from Quantria Strategies, LLC entitled “Improving Outcomes with Electronic Delivery of Retirement Plan Documents,” which examines the rationales for allowing plan sponsors to make electronic delivery the default method for communicating with retirement plan participants. The white paper calculates that switching to an electronic delivery default would produce $200 to $500 million in aggregate savings annually that would accrue directly to individual retirement plan participants.
Earlier today, The SPARK Institute, Inc. requested that the Department of Labor (“DOL”) consider an amendment to the compliance deadline in the participant disclosure regulations in order to provide additional flexibility on a permanent basis. “We commend the DOL for providing temporary relief last year by issuing Field Assistance Bulletin 2013-02. The FAB provided much needed flexibility for many plan sponsors and service providers,” stated Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel of The SPARK Institute.
Earlier today, The SPARK Institute submitted a comment letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) urging it to preserve viable money market fund options for retirement plans. “The changes being considered by the SEC, if adopted, will impact plan service providers, tens of thousands of plans and millions of participants,” said Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel of The SPARK Institute. “Depending on the approach taken by the SEC, the impact on retirement plans and their participants may be significantly detrimental, and could result in the limited availability, or elimination, of money market funds from such plans,” he added.
Earlier today The SPARK Institute submitted a request for guidance to the Department of Labor (“DOL”) and Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) regarding certain issues relating to the administration of employer-sponsored retirement plans due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s (“Court”) decision about the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”). The letter raises questions and concerns about determining the status of a same-sex couple based on where the individuals enter into the marriage (“State of Celebration”) or where the individuals live (“State of Domicile”). “We are concerned that following the State of Domicile rule will confuse participants and their spouses, and unintentionally create potentially detrimental traps for unwary individuals,” said Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel of The SPARK Institute. “We are requesting that the Treasury and DOL allow plan sponsors to determine a participant’s marital status based on the State of Celebration, as it will simplify plan administration,” he added.
Earlier today The SPARK Institute submitted a request for guidance to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) regarding the pre-approved 403(b) plans program (Rev. Proc. 2013-22) and the application of the revised error correction program, the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (Rev. Proc. 2013-12) (“EPCRS”), to 403(b) plans. “The 403(b) prototype plan and EPCRS programs will be useful to plan sponsors and their service providers,” said Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel of The SPARK Institute. “Our request seeks clarification regarding a number of issues and makes recommendations that are intended to make these programs as available as possible to the broadest segment of the 403(b) community,” he added.
Today The SPARK Institute responded to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Notice”) regarding lifetime income illustrations. “The SPARK Institute supports guidance from the DOL that will encourage plan sponsors and service providers to voluntarily furnish lifetime income illustrations to participants on benefit statements and through other available means,” said Larry Goldbrum, its General Counsel. “Income illustrations can help participants better understand the amount of income their retirement savings may provide, and whether they need to make changes to how they are saving and investing,” Goldbrum added. The SPARK Institute’s letter urges the DOL to issue guidance expressly stating that furnishing lifetime income illustrations (1) is participant education, (2) will not constitute the provision of investment advice or any other fiduciary act under ERISA, and (3) does not constitute the offering or promise of any benefit under a plan.
SPARK Institute today submitted a request for guidance to the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) to address concerns about the ongoing deadline for furnishing participant fee and investment disclosure materials. According to Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel of The SPARK Institute, “Plan sponsors are requesting that their service providers combine the 404a-5 disclosures with other plan materials, such as year-end disclosures, or provide them after the start of a new calendar year when year-end investment alternative performance and benchmark information is available.” The 404a-5 participant disclosure regulations that took effect in 2012 require plan sponsors to furnish certain materials at least annually, which is defined as “at least once in any 12-month period.” Out of an abundance of caution, the rule is being interpreted as requiring this and future years’ materials to be furnished within 12 months of the prior year’s disclosures (generally by August 30th). “That is hindering many plan sponsors from being able to synchronize the delivery of the 404a-5 disclosures with other plan materials, and adding to plan costs,” Goldbrum said.
The SPARK Institute today submitted a Statement to the U.S. House Representatives Committee on Ways and Means and the Working Group on Pensions and Retirement, raising concerns about 2014 proposed budget provisions that would cap the total amount of savings any individual can accumulate in tax-favored retirement plans and limit the value of exlusions for employee deferrals in 401(k) plans. According to Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel of The SPARK Institute, "At a minimum, the proposals will increase the costs ultimately borne by all American workers trying to save for retirement, not just the higher income workers whom the provisions target. At worst the proposals will adversely impact the availability of plans and the amounts contributed by employers, particularly among small businesses."
SPARK Institute has released a new version of its Best Practices for sharing remittance and census data for 403(b) and related retirement plans, it was announced today by Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel. Version two of the Best Practices for 403(b) and Related Retirement Plans Remittance and Census Data Elements replaces the initial version that had been released in June 2009.
SPARK Institute has created an “Investment Provider Information Form for Multivendor 403(b) Plan Participant Disclosure” that will help facilitate compliance with the Department of Labor’s participant disclosure regulations by investment providers and record keepers serving 403(b) plans with multiple vendors. “As service providers prepare to comply with the 404a-5 participant disclosure regulations for multivendor 403(b) plans, it may be necessary for them to contact and coordinate disclosures with other investment providers,” noted Larry H. Goldbrum, General Counsel of The SPARK Institute. “In order to assist in this process, we have developed a short information form that will help record keepers and investment providers locate the appropriate contacts at other companies so their disclosures may be coordinated.” The information form also includes some basic information about the investment provider’s compliance approach and timing, he said.
SPARK Institute and the Investment Company Institute today released a new version of the “Sample Glossary of Investment-Related Terms for Disclosures to Retirement Plan Participants” that the organizations originally issued in December 2011. The new Version 1.01 contains revisions to the use of the term “Cash Equivalent” and the definition of “Market Capitalization or Market Cap.”
A coalition of 15 trade associations representing the retirement plan community, including employers and retirement services firms, is urging the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to permit broader use of electronic communications to deliver the disclosures to retirement plan participants required by new DOL regulations. In a letter submitted yesterday to the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, the coalition urged DOL to pursue a policy that would encourage and facilitate the use of modern electronic forms of communication. “Electronic communication today is no longer the exception, it is the norm,” the coalition wrote in its letter.
SPARK Institute has released spreadsheet templates of its Data Layouts for Non-Registered Investment Product Disclosures to Retirement Plan Participants that were published in September, said Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel. “We received feedback from our membership and others in the retirement plan community that spreadsheet templates of the Data Layouts would make it easier for, and increase the likelihood that, non-registered investment product providers would adopt the standards,” Goldbrum said. The availability of the spreadsheet templates adds another level of standardization to this process and makes it easier for companies who do not want to program for transmitting ASCII files to adopt the standards, Goldbrum said.
Two leading industry organizations representing retirement plan service providers and asset managers – SPARK and The SPARK Institute – have been purchased from Robert Wuelfing and reorganized as a single non-profit, member driven association, it was announced today. The announcement was made by Mr. Wuelfing and Jude Metcalfe, president of DST Retirement Solutions, and president of the new organization. DST Retirement Solutions is one of ten leading retirement plan industry members of The SPARK Institute that funded the transaction. The resulting entity will operate as The SPARK Institute.
SPARK Institute and the Investment Company Institute today released a “Sample Glossary of Investment-Related Terms for Disclosures to Retirement Plan Participants” that defined contribution plans can use and adapt in complying with new Department of Labor participant disclosure regulations requiring plans to give participants specific information about plan investments, including fees and performance.
SPARK Institute today released a new version of its information sharing standards and data layouts for lifetime income solutions that are used in retirement plans, said Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel. “In response to requests and recommendations from companies that are implementing the ‘Data Layouts for Retirement Income Solutions’ we made certain technical changes and clarifications,” he said. The data layouts, originally issued in September 2010, make it easier and more cost effective for record keepers and insurance carriers to make retirement income solutions available to plan participants. “The changes are relatively minor and we do not anticipate having to make other changes in the near future,” Goldbrum said.
SPARK Institute has released the final version of its data layouts for investment product providers and record keepers to electronically share investment specific information for nonregistered investment products that retirement plan administrators must disclose to participants under the Department of Labor’s participant disclosure regulations, said Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel. A draft version was released several weeks ago for public comment and a number of meaningful changes have been made as a result of comments we received, said Goldbrum.
SPARK Institute has released a draft of data standards for investment product providers and record keepers to electronically share investment related information that retirement plan sponsors must disclose to participants under the Department of Labor participant disclosure regulations, said Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel. The standards were developed primarily for use by non-registered investment product providers (e.g., bank collective investment funds, non-registered “fund of funds”, separately managed accounts and annuities) because no standards or mechanism currently exist for investment providers to transmit the required information to plan sponsors and their record keepers. “Our members who are record keepers recognized that plan sponsors will need significant help in collecting and reporting the data on potentially thousands of non-registered investment options and that gathering the information must be done electronically in order to be reliable, timely and cost effective,” Goldbrum said.