Abigail Johnson was named President of Fidelity Financial Services just days after being recognized as the No. 57 Most Powerful Woman in the World by Forbes. She will now oversee Asset Management, Retirement and Benefit Services, Retail and Institutional Brokerage and Corporate Operations at Fidelity, which is the second largest mutual fund company in America with over $1.5 trillion under management at the end of June.
This promotion makes Abby, the daughter of current Fidelity Chairman and CEO Edward Johnson III, the highest-ranking woman in the mutual fund industry and arguably the most powerful female executive in banking today.
Said her father of Abby in a statement from Fidelity announcing the news:
During her 24-year career at Fidelity, Abby has gained a breadth of experience overseeing many of the divisions that comprise Financial Services. She has demonstrated an ability to drive change and innovation in business practices on behalf of our customers. She is well suited for this important position.
I agree with Ned Johnson – Abby is well suited for this role. She is experienced, capable, and passionate about the business. Over 20-plus years, she has touched almost every facet of the business from running money to overseeing the various lines of business, from retirement plans to brokerage.
Ronald O’Hanley, who has until now reported to Ned Johnson, will now report directly to Abby. He will continue to oversee Asset Management and Corporate Services. Abby and Ron are both strong and capable leaders but their strengths are different; they will complement each other, ensuring even stronger leadership at the top. Jim Lowell, editor of FidelityInvestor.com, an independent newsletter, got it right when he said that Ron and Abby will “make a great, dynamic team much in the same way (Ned) Johnson and Jim Curvey did.”
Jim Curvey, it is important to note, joined Fidelity in 1982 and quickly rose to the top. He is now the Vice Chairman of Fidelity Investments.
There has been speculation for the better part of a decade about who will succeed Ned Johnson as Chairman and CEO. Fidelity has historically been a “family” business – Abby’s grandfather, Edward Johnson II, founded it in 1946, and her father has been Chairman and CEO since 1977. However, despite the familial nature of the company, several non-family members had gained influence in the race to become President of Fidelity.
Over the years many were considered possible future leaders, including Robert L. Reynolds, the former Chief Operating Officer, and Ellyn McColgan, the former Head of Mutual Fund Sales. This, along with the fact that Abby was appointed President of Fidelity Personal Workplace and Institutional Services in 2005, led to rumors that she had fallen out of the running. These rumors were proven wrong with this week’s appointment.
I believe Abby is very well-qualified to lead Fidelity Financial Services as the new President. She is certainly well-respected in the sphere of Boston financial services execs, and despite the fact that she is the daughter of Ned Johnson, this new appointment did not come without merit and a great deal of hard work.
Abby is a great role model for women out there working to build successful careers. She is a strong female presence in the finance industry. She has worked hard to earn her position as President of Fidelity Financial Services, all the while remaining admired by her colleagues and employees.
At a recent Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event celebrating the Johnson family’s contribution to the community, Abby hinted at the enormous shoes she may fill one day and noted her father’s legendary devotion to customer service. I was touched by one of her comments describing her dad. She called him “a man consumed with passion and endless energy for fixing things.”
From my perspective, these are traits Abby has learned well from her father. She, and the Johnson family as a whole have a reputation of quiet reserve. There’s no flash – I’ve always admired that. While this news is certainly making a splash in the mutual fund world, I’m sure it’s business as usual for her. I can’t imagine her celebration lasted long. She’s too good at what she does — too focused on Fidelity’s success — to be distracted by this.