The Spark Institute
SHAPING AMERICA'S RETIREMENT


SPARK INSTITUTE COMMITTEES

SPARK committees provide discussion forums, educational and networking opportunities, and the chance to lend your voice to guide our retirement agenda. Committee involvement helps professionals to keep up with industry issues and engage with peers.

Our issue-specific committees provide members with opportunities to discuss emerging industry issues, network with peers and learn from other industry experts. Groups generally meet monthly or quarterly and are included in SPARK Institute membership dues, unless otherwise noted.

Consider becoming involved. For more information on participation, contact Marlene Jung at marlene@sparkinstitute.org

Government Relations Committee (GRC)

Purpose: One of SPARK's most active committees, it allows members to share their views on legislative and regulatory issues and shape The SPARK Institute's Washington agenda. The GRC also provides vital education assistance to members with regular updates on legislative and regulatory topics.

Time commitment:

  • Monthly committee meetings (by phone): one hour 
  • Two in person meetings a year, following each SPARK conference

Qualifications: If your organization holds an Advisory Board Level membership with The SPARK Institute, anyone from your company can participate.

Projects:

  1. SPARK Legislative Priorities – The GRC helps members firms keep connected on SPARK’s four key priorities;
    a) eDelivery
    b) Open MEPs
    c) Expansion of Auto Features and
    d) Safe Harbor for Lifetime Income

  2. Legislative & Regulatory Network – The GRC shares information on all pending and proposed legislative and regulatory initiatives. Their current focus is on:
    a) HELP Subcommittee Hearing on Retirement Legislation
    b) RETIRE Act
    c) Retirement Plan Modernization Act
    d) RESA
    e) Neal’s Auto 401(k) Legislation
    f) Retirement Savings Lost and Found Act
    g) SEC Fiduciary Rule
    h) Department of Labor Regulatory Agenda

  3. Missing Participants Update 

  4. Guidance on ESG and GAO Report 

  5. ERISA Advisory Council Topics 

  6. Department of the Treasury and IRS Regulatory Agenda 
    a) VCP/SCP Update
    b) Hardship Distributions
    c) Executive Compensation

  7. EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

  8. State-Run Plans

  9. Student Loan Proposals

  10. Health Savings Accounts Update

 


 

Public Relations Committee

Purpose: The SPARK Public Relations Committee seeks to implement and promote the retirement plan market principals and legislative initiatives established by the SPARK Advisory Board. These principals are intended to highlight the value defined contribution plans offer to our society in providing a secure retirement for millions of American workers and their families. Ideally, these principals will form the basis of policymakers’ decisions when determining changes to laws and regulations effecting retirement savings. These principals will be disseminated to legislators, regulators, press and other associations for consideration in the development of more formal laws and regulations.

Time commitment:

  • Monthly committee meetings (by phone): half hour 
  • Two in person meetings a year, following each SPARK conference

Qualifications: If your organization holds an Advisory Board Level membership with The SPARK Institute, anyone from your company can participate.

 


 

Business Ideas & Exchange Committee

The Ideas & Exchange committee is responsible for identifying new trends, products and services for the DC Plan market. This group helps bring these ideas to members through agenda topics for the annual SPARK National Conference and Forum. The topics for this committee change regularly based on emerging trends and member’s needs. Recent projects included:

  • The 403(b) standard file format for data sharing
  • The Broker Dealer file format to address the new Fiduciary Regulations

Time commitment: 

  • Quarterly committee meetings (by phone): one hour

Qualifications: If your organization holds an Advisory Board Level membership with The SPARK Institute, anyone from your company can participate.

 


 

Data Security Oversight Board

This newly formed oversight board has been established to address growing concerns over cybercrime. The role of the board will be to establish uniform standards for recordkeepers and to select an agent to monitor compliance.

The agent will oversee certification of SPARK member organizations to ensure they meet established criterion. Member firms can use the certification when responding to plan sponsor consultant RFPs.

Time commitment:

  • Monthly committee meetings at minimum
  • This working committee may meet more frequently to address specific issues

Qualifications: Board participation is open to all industry members and plan sponsor consultants.

Projects: 

  1. Data Security Communication Standards - The DSOB continues to implement the new standard and will continually update it based on market needs.

  2. Retirement Industry Council - The DSOB kicked-off the RIC as a platform for Member Firms to share data security and cyber threats amongst one another on a confidential basis.

  3. Cyber Security Definitions - The DSOB is trying to develop agreed upon definitions for terms like, breach, incident and attack. Plan sponsors are increasingly building these terms into service contracts, but without agreed upon definitions contract negotiations are difficult and time consuming.

  4. Pen Test Standards – Increasingly consultants and plan sponsors are requesting copiers of data security penetration test results. A firm that gives out their pen test results are providing a list of known vulnerabilities to their system. DSOB members have uniformly rejected this approach and have instead taken the position that to do so seriously exposes a firm to cyber-attacks. To address the concerns of the plan sponsors the DSOB has started to develop a new industry best practice for reporting pen test results.

5. Legal/Advocacy Team for Cyber Security - The DSOB has raised concerns about new regulations like the one enacted in the EU around privacy and believe that more will be added here in the U.S. The DSOB wants to address these new regulations and to be involved in the development of any new policies around cyber security. So the DSOB is exploring interest on the part of record keeper members to form an industry advocacy group similar to what we do for retirement laws and regulations.

 


 

Conference Committee 

The Conference Committee assists SPARK in identifying topics and speakers for the SPARK National Conference and the SPARK Forum. Sub-groups within this committee include:

  1. Investment Roundtable Sub-Group - the investment group helps to identify investment trends in DC Plan Administration and drive topics for discussion.
  2. Data Security Sub-Group - this sub-group helps to identify topics and trends related to cyber security.
  3. Operations & Products - this sub-group helps to identify trends associated with industry efficiencies and new product offerings.

Time commitment:

  • Quarterly committe meetings (by phone): half hour

Qualifications: If your organization holds an Advisory Board Level membership with The SPARK Institute, anyone from your company can participate.

Projects:

  1. Missing Participants – The SOC has established a sub-committee to develop an Industry Best Practices on missing participants that will be sent to the DOL as they begin their own work on this issue.

  2. Fraud Prevention – The SOC has asked to coordinate with the DSOB’s new RIC to help share traditional fraud attempts on a confidential basis.

  3. Industry Automation – Members believe that there are several areas where automation would be beneficial for all firms and not represent tactical competitive advantages. The SOC is exploring what functions might fit into this criterion.

  4. Block Chain – The SOC believes that block chain technology might be useful to the retirement industry and is exploring how it might be used.

 


 

Certification Committee

We offer two designations for individuals who engage with plan sponsor clients and participants:
  • Accredited Retirement Plan Specialist (ARPS) – for record keeping and client services personnel
  • Accredited Retirement Plan Consultant (ARPC) – for plan sales and marketing staff

This committee is responsible for the development, evaluation and administration of all certification program policies, procedures and activities.

Time commitment:

  • Quarterly committee meetings (by phone): one hour

Qualifications: If your organization holds an Advisory Board Level membership with The SPARK Institute, anyone from your company that holds a valid designation may participate.

Projects:

  1. Eligibility – Last year, this team analyzed and updated SPARK’s Certification requirements to reflect our new relationship with Bryant University.