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“Why we need to implement financial education in school systems”, with David Donovan and Jason Hartman

We need to implement financial education in school systems. It would make such a difference if by the time someone opened their first bank account, they knew the value of savings, interest rate, loans, debts. We often learn the hard way and pay for these consequences throughout our adult life. I had the pleasure of interviewing […]


We need to implement financial education in school systems. It would make such a difference if by the time someone opened their first bank account, they knew the value of savings, interest rate, loans, debts. We often learn the hard way and pay for these consequences throughout our adult life.

I had the pleasure of interviewing David Donovan, Executive Vice President at Publicis Sapient. David oversees Publicis Sapient’s entire financial services portfolio for the Americas. He is responsible for setting operational strategies for the firm and managing relationships with top global investment banks. Donovan brings 25 years of expertise working on Wall Street as an institutional equity trader, including 14 years as the sector leader of technology trading for Fidelity Management and Research, when working with investment banks and asset managers. Since joining Publicis Sapient in 2005, his deep understanding of business, regulatory, operations and technology challenges facing C-suite executives, has enabled Donovan to help develop top strategic initiatives to evolve Publicis Sapient’s business and improve the company’s ability to deliver transformative work. As a trusted advisor to C-suite executives, David is involved in many key strategic initiatives helping with the digital transformation of banks, building better operating platform and leveraging globalization to reduce cost and grow revenues. David’s area of expertise includes building and executing strategies to lead digital transformation for banks, helping enterprises best understand data through proprietary data science solutions, providing globalization expertise to create efficient operating platform for banks, leveraging service level design concepts along with dev-ops & cloud integration, creating and implementing strategies to manage middle office operations and technology among other custom technology needs for clients. As head of Publicis Sapient’s largest business division, Donovan personally leads the Financial Services’ largest clients in their digital business transformations. Donovan has worked hard to foster credibility and trust with his leadership team and he’s proud of the role he’s been able to play in their personal growth.


Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance industry?

I’ve always been fascinated with Wall Street and the stock market. I saw Wall Street as an extension of the competitive sporting environment that I was familiar with from playing collegiate football at Boston College.

I was recruited to work as a trader at Fidelity Management and Resource for the fund manager, William Danoff, who was notorious for his intensity and profound success. He had a reputation for being challenging to work with on the trading desk. Working with Will was crazy but I fed off the intensity. For the first 3–4 years, pretty much the only time I got up was to go to the bathroom. The Fidelity Contrafund grew from $800 million to over a $100 billion fund and I am proud to say I played a small part in its success.

After I spent 20 years on Wall Street, it was time for something new. In 2005, there was a market infrastructure change called Regulation NMS which altered the way stocks were traded on the NYSE, as well as in Nasdaq markets. I saw how technology was becoming a driver- it wasn’t about people making big decisions or performing the executions on the phone anymore. I joined the consultancy, Publicis Sapient, where we help financial service institutions reimagine their businesses for the future, leveraging disruptive digital capability.

Can you share the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? What lessons did you take away?

Will’s dedication to the market was unmatched, but I learned it wasn’t about self-fulfillment for him. One morning when I brought in his trading sheet he showed me a personal letter addressed to him from a young couple. It included a picture of their son and thanked Will for managing their funds so their son would have the opportunity to go to college. He said, “The reason that I am so maniacal is that I have a greater responsibility”

There were dozens of those letters, all thanking him for the opportunity to help them fulfill their life goals. I took on these responsibilities as well and as a result, I worked harder to ensure these opportunities were provided to the customers who entrusted us with their funds.

According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience, what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers?

Learning about finance can be daunting. The tools to learn are inaccessible to the majority of Americans, however, it’s critical that we are educated in financial literacy. Money is what dictates our health, home, family; everything that is an instrumental part of our lives.

The financial industry has not done a great job of educating the broader public on how to create a financial plan that is well suited to their lifestyle. The lack of education and resources has perpetuated fear of financial services. Many individuals become frustrated and apprehensive entrusting banks/asset managers with a solution that can help provide a real way to manage their own money to suit their life goals. Publicis Sapient can use experience, technology, and data to help consumers better understand how to save, manage and spend their money, and build a financial future.

What 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?

· We need to implement financial education in school systems. It would make such a difference if by the time someone opened their first bank account, they knew the value of savings, interest rate, loans, debts. We often learn the hard way and pay for these consequences throughout our adult life.

· We need to make personal financial management tools and other applications more accessible- ones that can break down the market in an easy way to understand and use.

· Don’t fall for false promises that say they can make you rich overnight. Educate yourself on the market; use every resource available such as digital savings tools, trusted financial newsletters, and publications.

If you had to advise a young adult about 5 non-intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Please provide an example for each.

1. Take advantage of company benefits. One of the most important benefits is a 401k, which is your employer giving you money in the form of a pre-taxed match. Invest in it, even if you are resistant to sacrificing some of your paychecks.

2. Invest in companies that you understand and can relate to such as Apple, where you use some of their products daily. As an active consumer, you have a better understanding of the company.

3. Student debt can feel crippling but take advantage of financial tools out there that can help you manage student debt. There are options to find the best way to refinance and consolidate that debt at a lower interest rate while strategically paying down the debt when it’s feasible. This way you can avoid those times when your budget is too tight and you miss a payment.

4. Invest in a big cap US index fund with low fees, diversify money but don’t put your money in something you don’t understand.

5. It’s critical to save money. It’s hard to put away a lot when you are paying off short term bills but taking the time to put aside money for future endeavors is the best way to set you up for success.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Alan Herrick, the former CEO of Sapient, convinced me to join the firm in 2005. He saw my industry expertise and relationships as a way of strengthening Sapient’s capital markets practice which had just been created. At the time I joined the practice, it was $30 million in revenue with only a couple of clients. It has now grown to over $400 million and we work with every large global bank and asset/wealth management institution in the world. Alan had the vision and foresight to attract industry-leading practitioners to strengthen the business.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“ You can’t go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

We learn through our life experiences that there will always be some good and some bad. The lesson is to never dwell on the past but stay positive and think about how you can affect change for the better.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest amount of people, what would that be?

Education is one of the most important privileges. Bringing it back to financial literacy, it gives you the tools for success not just in finance but opens every door. It empowers you to be your own greatest resource

Thank you for these great insights!

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