“When you sincerely believe in what you do, your employees recognize that.” – James D. Speros
In the following interview, James D. Speros, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Fidelity, discusses the role trust and integrity play in an organization’s success, a leader’s role in setting the bar for innovation and creativity, and going beyond ‘rocket flare’ to connect with people.
How have you leveraged your brand to grow your business?
By making sure all our employees understand what the Fidelity brand stands for. There’s a lot of education and communication that we do internally. It’s not just a simple what I would call ‘rocket flare’ where you do it once and then you walk away from it. There’s ongoing communication and activity throughout the year connecting people to the tenets of the brand, letting people express what the brand means to them and how they live the brand with every interaction.
We also surround the organization visually with the green line, the simple metaphor for guidance in navigation. My fundamental philosophy is, “Leadership is the art of achieving results through people.” You can’t do it all yourself. You have to rely on your people to deliver on the brand promise and deliver results for the organization. [The role of the] leader is to provide the vision for where you need to get to, and be the champion for innovation and creativity.
What are the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned? Or what are the most important leadership principles that guide you?
The most important leadership lesson I’ve learned is very simple: Treating people like people, the way you would like to be treated, regardless of background; providing encouragement; and giving people the opportunity to express their opinions without fear of criticism. It’s so important to hold these values close to you and believe in them at all times. People can see through corporate messaging, and when you sincerely believe in what you do, your employees recognize that.
How would you define the Fidelity culture and the impact that you have on creating that culture within Fidelity?
I would describe the culture of the organization first and foremost as one of very high integrity. The most precious asset we have with our client base is trust. We have one of the most trusted brands in financial services. And trust is something you earn, not something you assert. You earn it by acting consistently with integrity.
I think another aspect of the Fidelity culture is its sharp focus on professionalism and excellence. That informs the brand and how our associates interact and how our associates interact with each other and with our customers: integrity, professionalism and excellence. Every single person who comes in the door needs to get inoculated with those cultural attributes, because they become brand ambassadors for the company.
As a service organization, your employees are as much as the brand ambassador as a television commercial. Do you do anything particularly within their training and development to empower them to feel that way?
Yes. From the moment people walk in the door here, they go through a very rigorous onboarding process. Everyone learns about the history of the brand and its tenets. I don’t think there’s a single person who would ever say this isn’t a company is founded on integrity, and it starts right with Mr. Johnson himself and the whole family. This is a privately held company, and that integrity comes from the top down.
How are you, as the CMO, involved in your overall talent strategy and the priority of that strategy within the organization?
The employment brand starts with the fundamental reputation of the company.
So marketing clearly plays a role in shaping our reputation and projecting it externally. And it’s not just marketing; it’s our public relations work, our philanthropy, and, most importantly, every interaction with our customers to create a superior customer experience.
ABOUT JAMES D. SPEROS: James D. Speros is executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Fidelity Personal & Workplace Investing, a unit of Fidelity Investments. In this role, Mr. Speros is responsible for leading a team of 200 associates and directing the development of advertising, online marketing, media planning & buying, branding, direct marketing, collateral development and mobile marketing. Prior to joining Fidelity, Mr. Speros’ previous roles included serving as senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Marsh & McLennan Companies, as chief marketing officer for the U.S. Division of Ernst & Young LLP and as vice president, Advertising and Marketing Communications at AT&T Corporation. Considered one of the top thought leaders in marketing and advertising circles, Mr. Speros has been actively involved in numerous industry organizations, including the Association of National Advertisers, the Advertising Council and BPA International. Mr. Speros earned his bachelor of business administration degree in marketing from Bernard M. Baruch College in New York City, and holds an Advanced Management Certificate from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
ABOUT FIDELITY: Fidelity Investments is one of the world’s largest providers of financial services, with assets under administration of $3.7 trillion, including managed assets of more than $1.6 trillion, as of May 31, 2011. Founded in 1946, the firm is a leading provider of investment management, retirement planning, portfolio guidance, brokerage, benefits outsourcing and many other financial products and services to more than 20 million individuals and institutions, as well as through 5,000 financial intermediary firms. For more information about Fidelity Investments, visit www.fidelity.com.