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E-Commerce Chiefs Said to be Rare Breed


Fidelity Investments of Boston recently lost the services of Ivar Wold, who led the firm's web site and e-commerce program, and it may be difficult for the firm to find someone of his caliber to replace him.

Wold left Fidelity last month after four years to become senior vice president and chief technology officer of Essential.com of Burlington, Mass., which describes itself as "the Web's first energy and communications superstore." The appointment was announced Aug. 31. Previously, Wold had been senior vice president of Fidelity Investments' retail electronic commerce. Fidelity does not have a replacement for Wold yet, said Jim Griffin, a company spokesperson.

If Fidelity has to look outside its current team to find a replacement for Wold, it may find it difficult to hire a person who not only knows how to run an e-commerce program, but is also knowledgeable about issues in the mutual fund industry, said Steve Miyao, who for the past three years has generated a list of the top 20 mutual fund websites for McGladrey & Pullen of New York, a public relations firm.

There are a number of other fund companies who "are desperately looking for a person to lead their e-commerce" Miyao said. He declined to name any firms.

"It's always a challenge when your head guy in that area leaves," said Miyao. "Often that role is really an evangelist's role, where you bring your ideas to the firm. With the web and the IT business the way it is today, you need a person with the experience and the guts to stand up to the company's leaders and say, We're going to shake up the business.'"

The best scenario for Fidelity would be if it could fill the position from the inside, Miyao said.

"They [Fidelity] will struggle to find somebody who's got experience on both the mutual fund side and the Internet side," said James Punishall, an analyst who covers online financial services at Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., a technology research firm. "It's a very small pool of people who have dealt with both worlds. Certainly they have lost some experience and it will be tough to fill those shoes, but certainly not impossible. Fidelity might have some people internally that are ripe for promotion...it might be a good thing to get some new blood and fresh life in there."

According to Griffin, the Fidelity spokesperson, the company is confident it will be able to replace Wold with someone of his caliber.

"Fidelity has invested a great deal in our technology and information services and we have a very strong bench, in terms of ability and talent," Griffin said. "There is a strong group of people he worked with. Its members have a lot of technological savvy and advanced knowledge."

Those sentiments were echoed by Eric Kobren, editor of Fidelity Insight, a newsletter that covers issues at the money management firm.

"Fidelity's bench is pretty deep and the loss of one IS person isn't going to make a big difference at the company," Kobren said.

Wold has impressive credentials. He holds a bachelor's in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Southampton University in Southampton, England. He also did postgraduate research at the university's Institute of Sound & Vibration Research.

Essential.com provides one-stop shopping for home energy (heating oil, electricity and natural gas), Internet access, and phone service, according to a company statement.