SPARK Launches Standard Recordkeeping Data Format

January 7, 2001 ( - Participant recordkeepers and payroll providers have finally gotten their individual acts 'together' - and plan sponsors could be a major beneficiary, saving time and money while gaining accuracy in the critical exchange of participant data.

The Society of Professional Administrators and Recordkeepers (SPARK) has today announced the availability of a standard record format for exchanging payroll data between payroll providers and recordkeepers.   

Participating Parties

A task force of SPARK member companies created the SPARK Data Format, including the participation of major providers in the mutual fund, insurance and banking industries, as well as third party administrators.  Just as critically, the development included the participation of payroll giants ADP, Ceridian and Paychex.

Ralph Zegarelli, recently retired and former Assistant Vice President, Client Solutions for CIGNA Retirement & Investment Services, who led the effort notes, ‘the motivation was straightforward.  Plan sponsors are dissatisfied dealing with recordkeepers and payroll providers on a basic common need – passing participant data.’

Conversion ‘Tool’

The SPARK format has already been implemented by 401(k) provider Emplanet on a number of new clients. 

As for plan sponsors contemplating a change in providers, ‘The SPARK Data Format will be of particular value to plan sponsors when it comes time to change either or both their payroll provider or 401(k) recordkeeper,’ said Frank Bermani, Executive Director, SPARK. ‘The all important data transfer becomes seamless when both sides of the equation are in position to send and receive the data utilizing the SPARK Format.’ 

The SPARK Data Format is available to all SPARK member companies through the SPARK website at

SPARK is an inter-industry trade association of investment managers and service providers who deliver services to approximately 95% of the 38 million 401(k) plan participants in the US, according to the organization.