Shlomo Benartzi

Shlomo Benartzi

Professor of Behavioral Decision Making, UCLA Anderson School of Management

Shlomo Benartzi has done a good job of creating action out of what had previously been mostly theoretical and research-oriented ideas.

"My passion is taking behavioral insights and creating scalable solutions, especially using digital technology," said Mr. Benartzi, 49, a behavioral economist and professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Mr. Benartzi was introduced to behavioral economics about 20 years ago by Richard Thaler (another 2017 innovator), when they were both at Cornell University, the former as a doctoral student and the latter as a professor.

Together, they used the field's precepts to develop the Save More Tomorrow program, now helping about 16 million employees save for their futures. The program, accessed through workplace retirement plans, helps people overcome issues such as inertia, self-control and loss aversion.

"It was unique in that two academics with an idea convinced the industry to do it," Mr. Benartzi said.

The program uses the concept of nudging, which grew out of academic research into behavioral tendencies and biases.

"Once we understood that people make consistent mental mistakes, it seemed like a natural extension to design choice environments that helped us make better decisions," he said. "And while my focus is on the financial industry, I'm also working on nudges that can help improve well being in other domains, such as health."

Mr. Benartzi was born and raised in Israel. His Hebrew surname means "son of my land."

What drives him to do this work?

"It really does come from a deep desire to help millions of people," he said, "so that we can make it easier for everyone to make choices that reflect their long-term interests and preferences."

– Deborah Nason

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