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SPARK Institute, The Retirement Advisor University to Offer Courses on Joint Platform

The SPARK Institute's classroom and online programs for retirement plan advisors and providers will be available on The Retirement Advisor University's learning platform starting Jan. 1

Two suppliers of educational programs for retirement plan advisors will be joining forces to offer more programs and support for providers in the industry.

The SPARK Institute and The Retirement Advisor University (TRAU) announced they would be offering a singular platform for advisors and providers in retirement planning. The SPARK Institute offers numerous development programs, including the Accredited Retirement Plan Consultant (ARPC) designation for sales and marketing professionals, and the Accredited Retirement Plan Specialist (ARPS) designation, designed for employees in administration or record keeping. Starting Jan. 1, all SPARK courses will be found on TRAU’s learning platform.

SPARK has been providing training programs since the mid-1980s, Tim Rouse, the SPARK Institute’s executive director, told

"Last year, we took a step back and said, 'How do we want to go forward and invest in our tech training business?'" he said. "We really need to partner with someone that has the technology as well as the ability to deliver in-person training."

TRAU (and its affiliate, The Plan Sponsor University) offers its own programs, including the C(k)P (Certified 401(k) Professional) designation, which was created in collaboration with UCLA Anderson School of Management Executive Education. According to TRAU, its program is the first retirement planning certification program associated with a “nationally recognized” higher education institution, and the C(k)P designation is the highest-level designation in the retirement plan industry, with nearly 1,000 designated advisors to date.

TRAU has worked with nearly 10,000 attendees of 500 half-day training programs throughout the country since 2013. SPARK’s own programs have reached 8,559 professionals (both in the classroom and online) from 74 companies. TRAU CEO and founder Fred Barstein expressed excitement about the deal, saying SPARK courses would add “a new dimension” to what TRAU offers.

"Many experienced plan advisors have staff training needs and can benefit greatly from the SPARK courses,” Barstein said. “There are also many less experienced advisors that have a few plans who want to learn how to better serve their clients while leveraging their position as a plan advisor to expand their wealth management and IRA rollover business."

Barstein said both SPARK and TRAU will communicate with SPARK’s currently enrolled students prior to the end of the year to detail when SPARK’s classes will be available on TRAU’s platform, and when SPARK’s courses will end on its current platform. Rouse said SPARK's programs could boost the diversity of offerings on the TRAU platform.

"With the addition of SPARK classes, TRAU now has a complete spectrum of courses and designations," he said. "For us, it gave us the ability to deliver the current courses and designations in a better, more effective technology, so the student experience will be better."

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