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View More Press Releases by The SPARK Institute

Press release:

The SPARK Institute Releases Three New 403(b) Plans Best Practices Documents

Issued by: The SPARK Institute

Date: June 30, 2009

SIMSBURY, CT, June 30 -- The SPARK Institute has released three new best practices documents for 403(b) plans, including new best practices for sharing remittance and census data; Version 1.04 of its “Best Practices for Information Sharing”; and  sample files, data sharing formats, and guidelines for coding data, it was announced today by Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel.  “These are significant new documents that include important changes that will be helpful to service providers and plan sponsors in the 403(b) plans community.”  He said that they are available and can be used by anyone.  “Our goal has been to develop best practices that are widely adopted by service providers and plan sponsors in order to facilitate simple and cost effect sharing of information,” Goldbrum added.  The new documents are available in the “New Material” section on The SPARK Institute web site at www.sparkinstitute.org/comments-and-materials.php.

       The most significant development is the creation of “Best Practices for Multiple Vendor Plans Remittance and Census Data Elements.”  This new standalone document replaces Part III of the SPARK Institute’s “Best Practices for Information Sharing,” Goldbrum said.  “Based on what we were hearing in the marketplace, there was a significant need for a robust and standardized way for vendors and employers to share remittance and census data,” said James Racine, assistant vice president of Lincoln Financial Group, a key member of The SPARK Institute 403(b) Plans Task Force that worked on the new material.  “As a result, we worked with a group of SPARK Institute members to develop the new best practices and identified a basic file convention layout.”

      Due to this change and other comments and questions it received, The SPARK Institute also released Version 1.04 of the “Best Practices for 403(b) and Related Retirement Plans Information Sharing – Minimum and Comprehensive Data Elements.”  “As TPAs and investment providers began to adopt the Best Practices for Information Sharing, our Task Force received a number of follow up questions regarding data definition and fields based on user experience,” said Ralph Sanna, Director of Strategic Initiatives at TIAA-CREF, another leading member of The SPARK Institute 403(b) Plans Task Force.  “This practical insight helped us improve the new Best Practices document by clarifying standards and definitions while maintaining flexibility to address different business models.  These changes will not only help the TPAs and investment providers, but their plan sponsor clients as well.”  Sanna also said a comprehensive review of Part IV of the Best Practices was completed and a significant number of new Distribution Types and clarifications of existing ones were incorporated.  He noted that no major changes were made to record structures.

      “In order to facilitate an effective transition to Version 1.04 of the Best Practices for Information Sharing, it will not become effective until January 1, 2010,” said Goldbrum.  “We are publishing this document now to provide all affected parties with a minimum of six months to prepare for the change,” Goldbrum said.  On January 1, 2010, all previous versions of the Best Practices will become obsolete, he noted.   Additionally, the new Best Practices for Remittance and Census Data will become effective on July 1, 2010; however both documents may be implemented prior to the effective dates if agreed upon by both sending and receiving parties.

     The third document that was released today is “Sample Files, Data Sharing Formats, and Coding “Pipe Delimited” Data”.  It was created in response to numerous requests for sample file layouts.

About The SPARK Institute
     The SPARK Institute is the leading voice in Washington for the retirement services industry.  Through the combined expertise of its member companies, The SPARK Institute provides research, education, testimony and comments on pending legislative and regulatory issues to members of Congress and relevant government agency officials. Collectively, its members serve over 62 million defined contribution plan participants, including more than 90% of all 403(b) plan participants.

About Lincoln Financial Group
     Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation (NYSE:LNC) and its affiliates. With headquarters in the Philadelphia region, the companies of Lincoln Financial Group had assets under management of $171 billion as of March 31, 2009. Through its affiliated companies, Lincoln Financial Group offers: annuities; life, group life and disability insurance; 401(k) and 403(b) plans; savings plans; mutual funds; managed accounts; institutional investments; and comprehensive financial planning and advisory services. Affiliates also include: Delaware Investments, the marketing name for Delaware Management Holdings, Inc. and its subsidiaries; and Lincoln UK. For more information, including a copy of our most recent SEC reports containing our balance sheets, please visit www.LincolnFinancial.com.

About TIAA-CREF
TIAA-CREF (www.tiaa-cref.org) is a national financial services organization with more than $350 billion in combined assets under management (as of 03/31/09) and is the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.

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