Voya Financial Launches Behavioral Finance Research Institute

The Institute's first white paper, "Using Decision Styles to Improve Financial Outcomes – Why Every Plan Needs a Retirement Check-Up," examines the two primary styles that people use to make decisions.

Voya Financial, Inc. launched its Voya Behavioral Finance Institute for Innovation.

The new research initiative is focused on gaining deeper insights into the behaviors and decisions of Americans regarding their financial and retirement planning activities. Through a series of pioneering studies, the Institute will test a number of novel concepts that could translate into large-scale solutions to help people save more and achieve better retirement outcomes. The Institute’s work will be differentiated by its ability to merge behavioral science with the speed and scale of the digital world.

To create the Institute, Voya teamed up with renowned behavioral economist Shlomo Benartzi, professor and co-chair of the Behavioral Decision-Making Group at UCLA Anderson School of Management, who is serving as a senior academic adviser for Voya. Voya is also engaging several other leading academics, including professor John W. Payne from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Rick Mason, senior adviser at Voya Financial, will help coordinate the efforts for the company. Research associated with the Institute will be conducted in laboratory, panel and field settings. The Institute also plans to collaborate with Voya’s employer clients and distributors to bring these concepts to life in a manner that best serves their plan participants.

The Institute will support Voya across all of its businesses. Among other things, research will examine how to improve outcomes in areas such as savings rates, participation in workplace plans, portfolio diversification, creating sufficient retirement income and preventing money from prematurely leaving retirement plans (when participants cash out their savings after changing jobs).

“We are pleased to embark on this new initiative that supports Voya’s broader commitment to helping individuals plan, invest and protect their savings so they can retire better,” says Alain Karaoglan, chief operating officer for Voya Financial. “As more Americans take on the responsibility to prepare for their retirement, we recognize the need to help them make the right choices. Our Institute will take a scientific approach that applies lessons learned from research, along with measurement and validation, to develop solutions that can lead to improved financial outcomes.”

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The field of behavioral finance, which applies psychological theories to finance, has offered valuable insights and solutions to help Americans achieve better outcomes, Voya notes. Groundbreaking areas of study have resulted in innovative retirement plan features and investment options—most notably auto-enrollment, auto-escalation and target-date funds.

"This body of research has produced significant advancements, and the financial services industry has recognized its outcomes and benefits," says Charlie Nelson, chief executive officer of retirement for Voya Financial. "We believe there is even greater opportunity today to improve savings rates with the data and insights available from phone and adviser interactions, as well as digital tools such as retirement plan websites, mobile devices and apps. Our goal is to be known by our clients and partners as a leader that advances this valuable research."

The Institute's first white paper, "Using Decision Styles to Improve Financial Outcomes – Why Every Plan Needs a Retirement Check-Up," written by Benartzi, examines the two primary styles that people use to make decisions. By analyzing these decision styles, data collected from the online activities of retirement plan participants can inform a sponsor about the overall "health" of its plan and, more importantly, the actions it could take to set participants on a more effective course.

"Planning for retirement is often treated as a one-time event, but the reality is that it's a long journey requiring adjustments and course corrections along the way," says Benartzi. "Plan sponsors must remember that even if employees are enrolled in a plan, they may still require check-ups to achieve a successful retirement. Research conducted with the Voya Behavioral Finance Institute for Innovation offers an opportunity to discover new solutions that can help people on their retirement journey."

For more information about Voya's Behavioral Finance Institute for Innovation and to view the findings from Benartzi's current white paper or future studies, visit www.Voya.com/behavioralfinance.