The SPARK Institute is trying to help prepare providers of non-registered retirement plan investment options for new plan sponsor data demands.

Starting in 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor will require the sponsor of a 401(k) plan or similar plan to give participants a single chart that the participants can use to compare all plan investment options.

The chart must include options such as fixed annuities, collective investment funds or separately managed accounts that may not be registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and may not have provided the same kinds of performance reports that registered funds provide, according to the SPARK Institute, Simsbury, Conn.

The institute, a group that represents large retirement plan service providers and investment managers, says it has started developing data standards for retirement plan record keepers and providers of non-registered investment fund providers.

The new standards will help the providers share the comparison chart information electronically with one another and with existing investment information aggregators, the institute says.

The institute notes that it already has developed information-sharing standards for 403(b) plans and lifetime income arrangements.

- Allison Bell