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Rating:You Definitely Want to Find Out What Abby's Thinking Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Wednesday, April 08, 2015

You Definitely Want to Find Out What Abby's Thinking

News summary by MFWire's editors

Fundsters that are trying to get a handle on the "quiet, methodical approach" to leadership of Fidelity's [profile] Abby Johnson should take a look at this morning's Wall Street Journal.

The paper's Kirsten Grind takes a deep dive into how the Fido scion "is quietly reshaping" her father's Boston Behemoth, six months into her rein as CEO. As one "longtime Fidelity client" puts it in the article, "You definitely want to find out what Abby's thinking. It's probably well worth knowing."

Sadly, Abby herself, and her father Ned Johnson (still Fido's chairman), did not speak to the WSJ for the article. Yet a host of on- and off-the-record Fidelity clients, former insiders, and more all chimed in for the article. And in contrast with the more press-shy Fidelity during Ned's days, several current key Fidelity executives, including director Michael Wilens and equity division president Brian Hogan, even spoke to the paper on the record.

"She doesn't need to be one of those rock star CEOs," Wilens said to the WSJ.

The article focuses a lot of attention on the recent dominance (in terms of inflows) of passive asset management, and wonders about how Abby will handle that given Fidelity has huge active asset management business. Yet the paper also highlights Abby's focus on streamlining the company and its operations, and her efforts "to position the company as a larger financial-services firm, away from its mutual fund heritage." Indeed, Fidelity is the largest defined contribution plan provider around, and a huge online brokerage and back-office financial advisor ally, among many other things.

The article is also full of contrasts between daughter and father, as well as a host of tidbits and anecdotes about both. Some notable stories mentioned include: Abby launching a review of the businesses within Fidelity's Devonshire Investors private equity division; her frequent site visits with the Boston Behemoth's rank-and-file, including one when an employee gave Abby a Halloween pumpkin carved with Abby's portrait; a recent Boys and Girls Club of Boston event at Abby's Back Bay apartment, where "she sat quietly at a table" while her husband, a private equity guy, "chatted up guests"; Ned's grandfather clock collection, several hundred in total; a meeting where Abby asked her top executives "If you had $300 million to spend on the business, what would you invest it in?"; and Abby's failed 2004 attempt to oust her dad. The article is a must-read for any Fidelity watcher. 

Edited by: Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

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