Harvard in Tech Spotlight: David Dintenfass, Chief Marketing Officer & Head of Experience Design at Fidelity Investments
I spoke with David Dintenfass, Chief Marketing Officer & Head of Experience Design at Fidelity Investments. In his role, Mr. Dintenfass leads Fidelity’s retail customer strategy, enterprise experience design, marketing, and brand.
Prior to joining Fidelity in July, 2015, Mr. Dintenfass spent five years at Bank of America, Inc. in a variety of strategy and marketing roles including Head of Marketing for Consumer Banking and Wealth Management, leading marketing and digital sales across Merrill Lynch, US Trust, and Bank of America’s Consumer Bank.
Prior to Bank of America, Mr. Dintenfass was at Procter & Gamble, Inc. in a variety of domestic and global business management roles. Mr. Dintenfass started his career as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, Inc.
Mr. Dintenfass received a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and International Relations from Brown University with Highest Honors, and an MBA from Harvard Business School with High Distinction.
Could you share more about your journey to Fidelity? In particular, could you highlight what, in your view, are the most pivotal moments?
I came to Fidelity six years ago. I spent several years as a product manager leading consumer packaged goods brands before moving into financial services in 2010. What attracted me to Fidelity was the people. The company is completely focused on the customer and doing the right thing. I really connected with the leaders I met and, across the board, found the quality of the talent to be extremely high. When it’s time to make a career move, internal or external, the people part is always the most important.
What is the most important lesson you have learned throughout the course of your career about effective marketing?
Effective marketing must positively influence customer behavior. It’s an art and a science. Today we have plenty of tools to know if what we’re doing is really working. There’s no excuse not to use the science. Marketing is also a way of thinking about how to run the business. Marketing is often the voice of the customer at the table and needs to offer a cross-functional view of how to take the company forward.
How do you design and cultivate cultures and organizational structures and systems to be nimble even if they are large in size?
Great question. Innovation requires ongoing work on culture — it’s easier to squash innovation than to nurture it. A culture of customer obsession and a focus on delivering results leads to fast learning. Cultures that learn faster win. We’ve put specific structures in place across Fidelity to increase agility and speed. Importantly, we reward learning and risk-taking and measure what we do so we can get smarter across the organization over time. Everyone plays a role to make this happen.
What is the most surprising thing you have learned about conducting user research? How do you understand and incorporate nonverbal communication from users?
Listening to customers teaches me something new every day. No matter how long one works in a customer-facing role, the ability for customers to surprise never goes away. Luckily, as data and analytics have grown in the marketing process, nonverbal cues are easier to discern. For instance, when our digital design team is testing a new experience in market, we measure changes in customer behavior. This tangible change in behavior lets us determine preference even if the customer wouldn’t have been able to articulate their feelings.
How have you seen talent and skillsets evolve in roles on your team?
Design and marketing roles are getting more analytical and more digital. The talent we’re hiring is able to translate customer problems into solutions and bring them to life across channels. Our design process involves rapid iteration and customer feedback in ways that didn’t exist a few years ago. Our content creators can measure the effectiveness of their work based on customer behavior, something that only works in digital. Some of the fundamentals will always be important as well — leading, operating collaboratively across the business, managing ambiguity, working efficiently, and solving problems.
Looking back on your time at Harvard, what would you have done more of or done differently?
I loved my time at Harvard. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Maybe one thing, it might have been smart to buy some Amazon stock at IPO the month I graduated!
What advice would you give your younger self?
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.