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Ned Johnson Names His Heir


Now you can say it is so: Abigail Johnson last month was named president of Fidelity Investments and, effectively, successor to her father, Edward "Ned" Johnson, chief executive officer of Fidelity Investments.

In her new role, Johnson, 50, will oversee asset management, retail and institutional brokerage, retirement and benefits services at the Boston-based firm. She will report to her father, who currently has no plans to retire at the ripe old age of 82. She becomes the third generation of Johnsons to head the nations' second largest mutual fund firm, trailing only Vanguard Group.

The announcement ended years of speculation as to not who, but when, would Abby Johnson be handed the reins of Fidelity. Johnson beat out Robert Reynolds, a former chief operating officer, and Ellyn McColgan, a former head of mutual-fund sales, who were considered by insiders and trade and consumer media outlets as possible successors to Ned Johnson at the firm.

So what will Johnson be inheriting if she took the reins at Fidelity today? On the bright side, Fidelity is the clear giant in the retirement funding industry with more than 19,000 defined contribution and defined benefit plan sponsor clients. The unit said it had $25.2 billion in sales in the first half, a 36% increase over last year.

On the mutual fund front, it's a different story. Vanguard has reportedly gathered $80 billion in new assets this year through July 31, followed by Pimco's $31.6 billion, according to research firm Morningstar. Investors withdrew $16.2 billion from Fidelity stock and bond funds during the same period.

Fidelity also is currently not a player in the burgeoning exchange-traded fund arena. Unlike BlackRock, Fidelity hasn't built a presence in alternative investments or exchange-traded funds. But the firm is reportedly looking to play catch-up with ETFs of its own via a series of products based on its "Select" line of industry-focused equity funds, a person familiar with the plans said.

In a rare statement, Ned Johnson said: "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."

The proof comes next.