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Senior Editor

Fidelity’s IT treasure

Dec 23, 20025 mins
Data Center

Don Haile, CIO of Fidelity Investments Systems, is seen as a leader among IT leaders with his $2 billion budget and a penchant for technology innovation.

Don Haile, CIO of Fidelity Investments Systems, is seen as a leader among leaders with his $2 billion budget and a penchant for technology innovation.

When you have 2,500 people working for you and control a $2 billion budget, power is something you don’t worry about too much. As president of Fidelity Investments Systems Company, a division of Fidelity Investments in Boston, Don Haile has the brawn and industry savvy to direct the IT operation of the nation’s largest mutual fund company and leading provider of financial services.

“I have the opportunity to influence many of our product decisions and directions, and I am lucky enough to still have some friends inside IBM – and other vendors – who think I know what I am talking about,” says Haile, who joined Fidelity in 1998 after 34 years with IBM.

Haile’s take-charge style is highly respected inside and outside Fidelity.

“Don’s one of those guys we could always count on to cut through the politics and do the right thing. People loved working for him,” says Steve Joyce, a former IBM employee who is now director of network technology at software vendor NetIQ. When Joyce left IBM to co-found Ganymede Software, which was subsequently bought by NetIQ, he made sure to include Haile on his advisory board.

Influence on innovators

Despite kudos from many sources, Haile is modest about his successes.

“Being backed by a terrific technical team inside Fidelity makes my choices and ‘pronouncements’ pretty solid,” Haile says. Those pronouncements need to be dead-on because his team has full responsibility for Fidelity’s network implementation. “At Fidelity, I have a great set of network engineers,” he says. “My influence is more in the areas of how we use the network – making sure that we fully utilize our current bandwidth and ensuring the network is ready for future demands.”

Haile says his team recently deployed real-time video Webcasting and video on demand, and now is evaluating a proposal to replace Centrex with voice over IP to give users enriched services at reduced costs. His challenge for 2003 is to continue reducing network costs by getting more out of current systems. His goal, he says, is to use the current market slowdown to come up with innovative uses of technology to distance Fidelity from competitors.

“People tend to be afraid of change. By forcing change and innovation new ideas will happen. Don’t get comfortable in any role – reach for the next change,” he says. “Technology, and the proper use of it, can be a major advantage in the finance industry – in fact, it clearly has been one for many years. We have to challenge our people to continue to innovate and take advantage of the new inventions that are coming out to ensure we keep our company ahead of the game.”

Beyond leading-edge technologies, Haile – who also watches over the firm’s application-development laboratories in Boston, Dallas, Salt Lake City and Dublin, Ireland – takes a hands-on approach to day-to-day problems.

A Japanese approach

“Every problem is an opportunity to change how we do things. If we have a system failure, a network problem, a bug, we ensure we understand how the situation occurred and make sure we have processes put in place to ensure that the problem will not occur again,” Haile says. “We have weekly [single point of failure] meetings, which I attend as often as I can, to ensure that the entire organization learns from others’ problems.”

Asked whether his business style is more like the hard-charging Gen. George Patton or more diplomatic à la Henry Kissinger, Haile instead compares his approach to the Japanese word “kaizen,” which means gradual, orderly, continuous improvement. “I believe that while sometimes it might take longer to get something done, consensus building and kaizen will bruise less egos and will result in real things happening in the long term,” he says.

And long-term dedication is what Haile’s about. Certainly that’s evident in the more than three decades he put in at IBM, a company he left only when it decided to exit the network business he led. But it’s clear in his personal life as well. One example is his 38-year marriage. Another is his long-standing allegiance to his alma mater, The Pennsylvania State University, which recently appointed him to the advisory board for its new College of Information Science and Technology. Haile graduated from Penn State in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and still make a point of attending a couple of football games there a year.

He also finds time to read a good book now and then. He’s currently about halfway through John Adams by David McCullough, and just bought former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner’s book, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance.

Haile says he wouldn’t change anything he’s done in his life, except maybe one thing. “Maybe, given the joy I have in my current job, I would have left IBM after 30 years, instead of waiting until I had 34 years,” he says.