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Volume 22 No. 7
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Denise Karkos, TD Ameritrade

rom planning her own career to setting team goals, Denise Karkos keeps her eye on the end zone instead of the first-down sticks.

Denise Karkos
Five years out of college, she decided to become a chief marketer. She accomplished that in 2013 when she ascended to her current position as CMO at TD Ameritrade. Once she took the job, she told her team she expected the online brokerage to jump from No. 4 to No. 1 in consumer consideration. While Fidelity does still stand in its way, TD Ameritrade has been No. 2 for six of the last seven quarters.

“I encourage people to think about the end game, not just about what’s the next job,” Karkos said.

Karkos didn’t set out to become a sports business leader per se. She fell in love with marketing in college and was more driven by a desire to manage a large group. TD Ameritrade helped groom her for the job, and mentors Tom Dyck, Dominic Mercuri and Tom Bradley helped guide her career.

But as CMO, she’s seen firsthand the power, and challenge, of sports as a sales driver. TD Ameritrade’s two biggest deals, with the NFL and the U.S. Olympic Committee, are visible examples.

“It’s not challenging to produce emotional work when it comes to sports. There’s so much territory there and so much ammunition,” Karkos said. “The hard part as a financial services firm is, how do you tie it over to your brand message and tell consumers how important it is to your life.”

But, she said, the company is up to the challenge and does expect to reach that No. 1 mark in the field. “I would say we’re going to start producing some pretty iconic work,” Karkos said. “That’s the aim for us. That’s the goal.”

— Ben Fischer

  • An attribute I look for when hiring: Well-rounded, committed people.
  • A networking tip I’ve learned: Finding commonalities with people.
  • Biggest challenge I face working in sports: Balancing brand value with business value for a complete picture of ROI.
  • Best advice I’ve received for career development: Always be putting singles on the board.
  • Woman in sports business I’d most like to meet: I admire Alex Flanagan. She is so knowledgeable and poised and sets a great example for all of us.
  • Most memorable sporting event attended: Watching my Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX.
  • Cause supported: Special Olympics.