Innovator

Mark Iwry

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

Few people can say their work has helped millions. Mark Iwry (pronounced ee-vree) is such a person. For nearly three decades, he has fervently worked to craft national policies and develop innovative retirement solutions to pursue universal retirement coverage for American workers.

Currently serving as a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and visiting scholar at the Wharton School, Mr. Iwry, an attorney, has held positions at the Treasury Department as senior adviser to the Secretary of the Treasury (2009 – 2017) and benefits tax counsel (1995 – 2001).

One of his major accomplishments is the wide-scale adoption of automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans, a result of his 20-year-plus effort across several presidential administrations.

“I seized upon it as a huge step forward for the system so we defined it, decided how to regulate it, and promoted it,” he said.

So far, about two-thirds of large and midsize 401(k) plans have adopted the practice, helping millions of employees to save. Mr. Iwry is also working to extend auto-enrollment to IRAs nationwide, and has convinced a number of states to pilot the concept, potentially benefiting up to 13 million workers so far.

The son of a Holocaust survivor, Mr. Iwry has always felt driven to help others. Early in his legal career, he consciously looked for a policy area where he could have maximum impact, and pursued the skills and knowledge he saw necessary to help the most people, in the most effective way possible.

“It’s the human capital that’s more important to me than the financial capital,” he said.

— Deborah Nason