Now Rich Smith is the old guy in the suit.
A quarter-century ago, Smith was an intern standing in front of a group of MBNA executives, challenged to tell them how to market to college students like him. Fast-forward to present day, and the 2015 Target Marketer of the Year is CMO of Ditech Financial in Fort Washington, Pa. The entity nominating him credits Smith with leading the successful rebranding of Ditech post-mortgage crisis, and presiding over direct marketing campaigns that brought the mortgage lender from zero loans in its 2013 relaunch to nearly $19 billion in 2014.
Still, Smith, who joined Ditech in April 2013, thinks back to the “fun challenge” at MBNA that got him addicted to the direct marketing that earned him this year’s honor. Then a junior majoring in economics at Pennsylvania State University, he wasn’t yet planning on spending a career giving back to the marketing profession and creating an exemplary record that would earn him this award. However now, his nomination from Berwyn, Pa.-based ad agency Quattro Direct stands out from an exemplary field of marketers nominated by Target Marketing readers and contributors, then evaluated by magazine editors — perhaps even more than how the 20-year-old Smith stood out in an executive conference room filled with “old people in suits.”
Then, as he does now for Ditech, Smith spent time poring over MBNA’s data and understanding business operations before suggesting a marketing plan.
“I enjoyed all the aspects about putting that project together,” Smith says of the MBNA internship challenge. “That was really my absolute first introduction to what marketing was all about. I think I was hooked.”
Since then, he’s accepted challenge after professional challenge in financial service marketing, including working to bolster marketing efforts as SVP and CMO at the beleaguered AIG Bank brand all the way through the banking crisis and out of the Great Recession. Then he joined Ditech as the second member of its marketing team and worked to rebuild the brand from scratch.
“I should be tired and ready to go to sleep, right?” Smith jokes. “Some days I feel like that. I really do enjoy working with big brands and big challenges. I think it was one of the things that always drew me to marketing.”