82 Devonshire St.
Boston, Massachusetts 02109
Telephone: (617) 563-7000
Fax: (617 476-6153
Web site: http://www.fidelity.com
Incorporated: 1946 as Fidelity Management and Research Company
Total Assets: $765.2 billion (1998)
NAIC: 52392 Portfolio Management (pt); 52393 Investment Advice; 52312 Securities Brokerage; 52311 Investment Banking and Securities Dealing; 523991 Trust, Fiduciary, and Custody Activities (pt); 523999 Miscellaneous Financial Investment Activities (pt)
Boston-based FMR Corp. is a diversified financial services company with operations in banking, mutual funds, life insurance, and retirement services. FMR is the parent company of Fidelity Investments, the largest mutual fund group in the world with more than $765 billion under management. The company’s Fidelity Brokerage Services Inc. subsidiary is the second largest discount brokerage house in the United States. FMR has direct investments covering a wide range of industries, including telecommunications, real estate, publishing, and transportation. The privately held financial giant’s extraordinary growth is closely tied to the powerful influence of one family, that of Edward “Ned” Johnson III.
FMR traces its history to 1930, when the Boston money management firm of Anderson & Cromwell—later Cromwell & Cabot—organized Fidelity Shares. Designed to serve smaller investment accounts, the firm’s steady $3 million in assets were invested in Treasury notes rather than stocks. Efforts to boost the shareholder base using various distribution arrangements proved unsuccessful, although the firm did become a pioneer in shareholder communications by regularly updating shareholders through letters and reports on portfolio holdings. In 1938 Fidelity Fund opened its own offices, and Cromwell & Cabot began receiving a fee for its investment advice. Later that year, as the fund evolved and became more of an independent entity, Fidelity’s president and treasurer began to draw salaries from the fund itself. Two years later a regulatory statute, the Investment Company Act of 1940, went into effect and enabled the accelerated growth of such mutual fund houses as Fidelity.
When Fidelity Fund’s president resigned in 1943, the fund’s directors recruited Edward C. Johnson II to take over, while he retained his position as treasurer and counsel to the large Boston investment trust Incorporated Investors. Johnson, a graduate of Harvard Law School, came from a wealthy Boston family—his father was last in the line of Johnson family partners in Boston’s premier retail dry goods store, C.F. Hovey & Company. Serving his father as trustee on family trust funds, Johnson’s position with Fidelity Fund provided him with an opportunity to consolidate his family’s investments and give free rein to his fascination with picking stocks.
Johnson had found his calling, and his uncanny gift for choosing moneymaking stocks provided the fuel for the company’s remarkable expansion—by 1945 the fund’s assets had risen to $10 million, and Johnson gave up his position with Incorporated Investors to devote his time to Fidelity. The following year Fidelity’s contract with Cromwell & Cabot expired, and rather than renew it, Johnson chose to manage the fund himself and create a new firm, Fidelity Management & Research Company, to act as advisor. Also in 1946 Johnson began developing a group of Fidelity funds, beginning with the launch of the Puritan Fund. In the ensuing decade a variety of different investment groups were started, all under the umbrella of the Fidelity Group of Funds. Johnson continued to supervise Fidelity’s portfolio until the mid-1950s, when the company’s rapid growth necessitated shifting his attention to executive and administrative tasks. In the decade from 1947 to 1957, under his guidance, assets under management at Fidelity soared from $16 million to $262 million.
A well-established leader of the Boston financial community and a Wall Street legend, Johnson was a strong-willed chief executive who took an almost paternalistic interest in the company and in nurturing talent at the fund. Throughout his life, he never wavered in his fascination with the vagaries of the stock market, keeping a daily stock market diary for over 50 years, in order to sharpen his understanding of market fluctuations.
One of the talented young men who came under Johnson’s tutelage was his son, Edward C. “Ned” Johnson III, who joined Fidelity in 1957 after working at State Street Bank. In that year two “growth” funds were added to the Fidelity Group. Ned was put in charge of the Trend Fund, while Gerry Tsai, another protege of the senior Johnson, became manager of the Capital Fund. Tsai was a young, inexperienced immigrant from Shanghai when Johnson hired him as a stock analyst in the early 1950s. Tsai bought such speculative stocks as Polaroid and Xerox when he took control of the Capital Fund. His performance gained him fame and customers, and in less than ten years he was managing more than $1 billion. Tsai, considered the prodigy of the investment world, eventually left Fidelity in 1965 after recognizing that it was Ned who was destined to succeed the elder Johnson as CEO.
The 1960s were a golden period for Fidelity, with the Trend and Capital Funds the high-performance heroes of that decade. From 1960 to 1965 assets under management swelled from $518 million to $2.3 billion. In 1962 the company established the Magellan Fund, which eventually became the largest mutual fund in the world. The firm also launched FMR Investment Management Service Inc., in 1964, for corporate pension plans; the Fidelity Keogh Plan, a retirement plan for self-employed individuals, in 1967; and, to attract foreign investments, established Fidelity International the following year in Bermuda. In addition, it formed Fidelity Service Company in 1969 to service customer accounts in-house, one of the first fund groups to do so.
By 1972, when Ned Johnson took over executive control from his father, the seemingly boundless growth of the 1960s had dissipated, and Fidelity was experiencing an uncharacteristic downturn in business—during the two years from 1972 to 1974, assets had shrunk 30 percent. Under Ned’s control, the company began an ambitious expansion program, diversifying from its mutual fund base into a broad range of financial services. The new strategy seemed to work and by the late 1970s, Fidelity regained the momentum it had lost. Among the new services made available by the company was the Fidelity Daily Income Trust (FDIT), the first money market fund to offer check writing, which was launched in 1974. Bypassing traditional brokerage distribution channels, Fidelity offered the new fund directly to the public, using print advertising and direct mail. Two years later, Fidelity launched the first open-end, no-load municipal bond fund, and in 1979 Fidelity became the first major financial institution to offer discount brokerage services. That year Fidelity also organized an arm of the company to serve institutional investors.
During the late 1970s and much of the 1980s, Fidelity became the envy of the investment industry with the remarkable success of its Magellan equity fund. Under the management of investment wizard Peter Lynch, Magellan became the best-performing mutual fund in the nation. Beginning in 1977, when Lynch became manager, the mutual fund seemed to take off through a run of inspired stockpicking. Leading the ten-year fund performance rankings for most of the 1980s, Magellan consistently posted higher percentage gains than the Standard & Poor (S&P) 500 stock index. Typical of its performance, the fund scored an average annual gain of 21.1 percent in the five-year period ending March 31, 1989, which compared favorably to the 17.4 percent annual gain posted by the S&P 500.
Magellan had more than 1,000 companies in its portfolio—many more than the 200 or so that most big equity funds held. Industry observers traced Magellan’s success to the combination of Lynch’s remarkable knowledge, his gift for picking stocks, a willingness to take risks, and the heavy promotion undertaken for the fund by Fidelity. During the 13 years that Lynch was in charge, Magellan grew at a breakneck pace—from $20 million in 1977 to $12 billion by 1990.
Because Lynch did not invest heavily in conservative stocks and kept very little liquid capital, the Magellan Fund was hit hard by the crash that shook Wall Street on October 19, 1987. Caught off-guard, Fidelity was forced to sell shares heavily in a plummeting market to meet redemptions. On that day alone, nearly $1 billion worth of stock was sold. By the end of the week, Fidelity’s assets had dropped from $85 billion to $77 billion. Still, almost all of the firm’s equity funds beat the market on Black Monday. In 1988, the year following the crash, Fidelity’s revenues were down a quarter and profits were 70 percent lower. Determined never to suffer another Black Monday, Johnson cut personnel by almost a third (from a pre-crash high of 8,100), began sharpening the company’s international presence, and prepared to enter the lucrative insurance field. In 1989, with more than $80 billion in assets under management, the firm had captured about nine percent of the entire mutual fund industry; a year later these figures leapt to nearly $119 billion in assets with over 35 million mutual fund transactions in 1990, the year Peter Lynch surprised the industry by resigning from the Magellan Fund to spend more time with his family and write (he rejoined the company as a part-time adviser in 1992).
With our success, we have grown to an organization of more than 28,000 people, with businesses throughout the United States and across the globe. We must balance our growth by retaining the entrepreneurial spirit of a small company, where each individual knows how much his or her efforts count. Fidelity’s culture is to build on our existing strengths as we explore future opportunities, to balance tradition with new thinking. Working together, we can provide valuable products and services for our customers.
By the early 1990s Magellan had lost its star status, although it still ranked among the top ten best-performing funds in the industry. In the meantime another Fidelity fund, Fidelity Select Health, a biotech fund, had taken over the number one spot, as Magellan moved to number three. The top five was rounded out by yet another one of Fidelity’s funds, Fidelity Destiny 1. Most of Fidelity’s top performers at that time came from its 36 “select” funds based on narrow industry segments.
Magellan was not the only fund to reap the rewards of Fidelity’s advertising campaign. Beginning with Ned Johnson’s leadership, the company began to more aggressively promote its services, keeping a high profile in the industry and before the general public through its big-budget marketing efforts. By the early 1990s the company’s advertising budget was $28 million per year, making it the biggest advertiser in the mutual fund industry. Meanwhile, Fidelity was also reaching the public through a nationwide network of branch offices, launched in 1980.
Like his father, Ned Johnson was also fascinated by Japanese culture, inspiring him to adopt Japanese-style management. The company was vertically integrated in order to make it more self-sufficient. One of the functions brought inhouse was the account processing that banks usually handled for mutual funds. Fidelity was then able to capitalize on these operations by selling its services to other investment firms. Johnson was also prompted to create a closer relationship with employees and management. Ideas for improving business were solicited, while promoting an atmosphere of team loyalty.
In the late 1960s Fidelity began—before many other banking and investment firms—to invest a large share of its budget in technology, with an eye toward becoming technologically self-reliant. As a result Fidelity was able to stay on top of the data processing and telecommunications revolution that was beginning to transform the financial industry. This strategy continued, and as the company entered the 1990s Fidelity was spending more than $150 million a year in the technology realm. The company was at the forefront of the group of financial firms making the transition from traditional roles to one of technology-based customer service, offering a kind of one-stop financial services shop.
An example of these advances was the interactive, automated telephone system that Fidelity was among the first to install in 1983. The following year the firm began offering computerized trading through Fidelity Investors Express. This service allowed customers to perform their own stock trades through home personal computers—what had become known as desktop investing. Fidelity also had custom-designed software to help representatives tap more information, including margin calculations and options analysis, while responding swiftly to customer requests. By the early 1990s Fidelity had upgraded its phone answering system to the point where it could handle 672 calls simultaneously on its automated toll-free lines, while a master console in Boston routed calls to the first available operator around the country. Fidelity also had its own electronic stock trading system, called the Investor Liquidity Network, that matched buy and sell orders from its brokerage and fund operators with those of outside institutional investors.
With the advent of the 1990s Fidelity had embarked on a new strategy to maintain its competitive advantage. Increasingly, it was aiming to be a low-cost personal financial advisor, moving in on territory traditionally associated with banks and brokers. Fidelity first crossed the line into banking’s territory in 1983, by offering its USA checking service to customers with a minimum balance of $25,000. At the same time, Fidelity’s enormous research and technology capabilities were being mobilized to provide customers with guidance in a wide range of areas, from retirement savings to planning for a college education.
Previously, Fidelity’s custom services had been targeted at its richest clients, but by the early 1990s the firm was offering a wide range of services to all of its six million customers. After a slow start, the discount brokerage operation, which lost money in its first nine years, was expanded in the late 1980s with the addition of three new offices. This service eventually became the second largest in the country. In 1987 Fidelity also moved into the insurance and annuity business by offering its customers in certain states such products as single premium policies, deferred annuities, and variable life policies. In 1989 Fidelity offered the new Spartan Fund, which featured a low expense charge for larger, less active investors. Throughout the 1980s the company’s institutional business grew, and by the end of the decade, Fidelity had become the largest manager of 401(k)s. From 1984 to the end of the decade, institutional assets under Fidelity management grew from $9.9 billion to $40 billion.
By the end of the first 20 years of Ned Johnson’s reign, assets under Fidelity Investment’s management had grown 21 percent annually, and with the close of 1991 FMR Corp. had posted record revenues of $1.5 billion, and record profits as well. During those two decades FMR became a highly diversified corporation with some 41 companies under its umbrella—among the financial companies were such firms as an art gallery, a limousine service, an employment agency, and a publishing concern. In addition, in April 1992 Fidelity Investments purchased 7.5 percent of banking giant Citicorp’s common stock. Worth $480 million, this stake made Fidelity the largest single shareholder of common stock in the nation’s largest banking company.
Over the course of the company’s history, Fidelity proved itself time and again by taking risks and seizing opportunities, and despite a skittish investor market and a sluggish economy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the company maintained its competitive edge. The Johnson family owned 47 percent of the stock—worth approximately a billion dollars—and most of the voting shares. The other 53 percent of the stock was owned by employees, principally senior managers, who were obligated to sell their shares back to the company when they left.
The year 1993 was a banner one for FMR, and the company’s total assets under management increased 36 percent, from $190 billion to $258 billion. Performing especially well in 1993 was Fidelity’s growth fund group, which included Magellan. Nearly all of Fidelity’s stock funds bettered the S&P 500, and Magellan alone grew from $22 billion in 1992 to $31 billion in 1993. Much of Magellan’s success was attributed to manager Jeffrey Vinik, who assumed control of the fund in mid-1992. Vinik invested heavily in technology, cyclical, foreign, and natural gas stocks. Fidelity’s market share in the mutual fund industry, which had hovered around the ten percent mark for four years, rose to 11.5 percent in 1993. In order to provide clients with a wide array of mutual fund choices, FMR in July launched Fidelity FundsNetwork, which offered non-Fidelity funds with no transaction fee. More than 250,000 new retail brokerage accounts and 1.5 million new retail mutual fund accounts, the highest number since 1987, were opened in 1993. John Rekenthaler, editor of the publication Morningstar Mutual Funds, which followed the activity of mutual funds, commented on Fidelity’s performance in Business Week, “Any way you cut the numbers, Fidelity is doing spectacularly.”
Also in 1993 FMR made headway in its capital group. Its Community Newspaper Company completed the acquisition of Beacon Communications from Chronicle Publishing Company of San Francisco. The purchase, which included 15 weekly newspapers and one daily, made Community Newspaper the largest operation of weekly newspapers in New England. FMR also founded a new company, City of London Telecommunications (COLT), and started Fidelity Personal Trust Services in three New England states.
The unsurpassed growth and success were not to continue so easily, however, and FMR faced increasing challenges in the mid-1990s. Though FMR enjoyed increased revenues, 1994 also brought rising interest rates and a volatile market. Small stocks suffered, and because many Fidelity funds invested heavily in smaller companies, FMR suffered as well. The U.S. bond market was, according to FMR, one of the worst since 1927, and the firm’s fixed-income funds outperformed only 23 percent of their competitors. The company restructured its fixed income group management in order to increase efficiency. Gross retail sales for 1994 declined 35 percent.
In addition to Fidelity’s losses in 1994, the company struggled to maintain consumer confidence after several incidents had sullied its reputation. The first occurred with the 1992 conviction of former portfolio manager Patricia Ostrander for accepting bribes from Drexel Burnham Lambert’s Michael Milken in the late 1980s. Then came three revelations in 1994: the deliberate transmission of day-old prices for about 150 mutual funds; a company reversal after stating that the Magellan Fund would pay a year-end distribution, when in fact it would not; then another gaffe when incorrect 1099-DIV forms were mailed to shareholders of two international funds. Yet despite these problems and negative economic factors, Fidelity still managed to beat over 83 percent of its fund competition, posted increases for most of its business units, and raised assets under management to $297 billion, a climb of nearly 15 percent for 1994.
In 1995 the S&P 500 had a return of 37.58 percent, its top performance since 1958. Still, because a large percentage of the rise resulted from a small number of large company stocks, FMR struggled to maintain its pace. Though some of FMR’s stock funds, such as the growth group, performed well in 1995, others did not. The growth and income group, with heavy investments in retail and energy industries, did poorly, as did the asset allocation group and the international group. FMR’s high-income funds outperformed more than 75 percent of its peers, but the Capital & Income fund’s poor performance impacted the group. A considerable Capital & Income investment in Harrah’s Jazz went sour when the company declared bankruptcy.
In 1996 revenues and assets under management increased, but net income dropped from $4.31 billion in 1995 to $4.23 billion. The U.S. economy was strong, inflation low, and the stock market active, but just as in 1995, the best-performing stocks were a small number of large companies. As a result, only about 26 percent of Fidelity’s stock funds outperformed the S&P 500. Magellan was one of the funds that performed poorly; its holdings in cash and bonds hurt results, and it was not as invested in well-performing industries, such as healthcare and technology. FMR restructured its equity group, reassigning a number of managers and dividing the group into eight business units. The restructuring of the fixed income group in 1994 had led to increased performance—in 1996 its funds outperformed 74 percent of the competition—and FMR hoped the same would happen with the equity division.
Despite some challenging years, FMR continued to expand and diversify. In 1994 the company announced plans to open a fifth regional operations center, in Marlborough, Massachusetts, and Fidelity Capital Markets opened a new trading floor at the World Trade Center in Boston. Fidelity’s market share in the mutual fund market grew to 12.8 percent, up from 11.5 percent, and almost 1.5 million new customer accounts were opened. Also in 1994 Ned Johnson gave daughter Abigail Johnson a 24 percent interest in FMR, leading many to speculate that she was being groomed to take over the company upon Ned Johnson’s retirement.
FMR opened its fifth regional operations center, in Merriack, New Hampshire, in 1996. The company entered the commercial software business with the establishment of Fidelity Technologies, a company geared toward developing and marketing software to other businesses. FMR advanced on the technology front in another aspect with the redesign and relaunch of a new web site. By year-end, the Fidelity web site was being visited about 476,000 times a day, up from 43,000 during the fourth quarter of 1995. FMR’s telecommunications company, COLT, went public in late 1996.
FMR and Fidelity faced many changes in 1997 and 1998 as the financial services climate grew increasingly competitive. In November Fidelity Investments announced a company reorganization effort designed to streamline operations and help boost mutual fund sales, which were sluggish during the first half of the year. James Curvey, who became FMR’s chief operating officer that year, explained to USA Today, “The key reason why we made the change: We need to simplify our organization. … Absolutely, we will become more efficient.” Though the firm’s fund performance began to improve toward the end of 1997, it was still not doing as well as the company hoped. According to Financial Research Corp., a firm that tracked mutual fund purchases, sales of Fidelity’s mutual funds fell for the fourth year in a row in 1997. Also during this transition year FMR sold some non-strategic operations, such as its credit card business and its stake in Wentworth Gallery Ltd. FMR also closed its retail brokerage operations in the United Kingdom due to poor performance. The company was able to open some new operations in 1997 as well, including client service offices in Latin America. Energized by COLT’s promising performance, Fidelity formed MetroRed, a telecommunications start-up business in South America.
In 1998, just months after closing its discount brokerage operations in the U.K., Fidelity opened a similar operation in Tokyo, Japan. Japan represented an untapped market, with the majority of personal finances stored in low-interest savings accounts. Also in 1998 Fidelity opened a sixth regional operations center, in Rhode Island. The company divested its Capital Publishing unit, publisher of Worth, Civilization, and The American Benefactor, presumably to focus on building its mutual fund operations. To reinforce its brand, Fidelity launched a national advertising and marketing campaign in 1998. Television and print ads featured Peter Lynch and the tag line, “Know What You Own, and Know Why You Own It.”
Management changes in the late 1990s included the appointment of Bob Pozen as president of FMR in 1997, the same year James Curvey became chief operating officer. J. Gary Burkhead was promoted to vice-chairman of FMR from director, and Abigail Johnson took on a management role, leading the specialized growth group. In 1998 James Curvey took on the additional role of president of FMR. Pozen remained president of Fidelity Management & Research Company.
The stock market continued to perform strongly into the late 1990s, and the S&P 500 increased more than 28 percent in 1998, achieving more than 20 percent rises for the fourth straight year. Fidelity’s mutual fund assets under management rose 25 percent over 1997, reaching $694.4 billion. In addition, the firm’s funds beat 73 percent of their competitors, the best performance since 1993, and Fidelity funds made up 42 percent of the U.S. mutual funds that outperformed the S&P 500 in 1998. Despite such positive performances and a sales increase of 15 percent over 1997, net income fell from $535.6 million to $445.7 million. The company attributed the decline to drops in brokerage commissions, increasing expenses, and performance penalty fees.
As FMR neared 2000, the outlook appeared positive. For the first quarter of 1999, revenue shot up 27 percent to reach $2 billion, thanks to increases in brokerage commissions and mutual fund management fees. Net income increased more than fourfold to reach $294.1 million. In June FMR announced plans to raise $750 million, its most significant effort to raise money in company history. The firm indicated the money was needed to finance expansion of facilities and fund investment opportunities. FMR also planned to launch a savings and loan, called Fidelity Personal Trust Company.
With a long and rich history, FMR was by the late 1990s a global financial giant. The diverse conglomerate was not only the largest mutual fund company in the world but also the top provider of individual retirement plans in the United States, as well as the second largest discount brokerage firm. FMR had more than 15 million customers, more than $765.2 billion in assets under management, and more than 280 funds under its administration. With the U.S. economy showing no signs of a slowdown, and FMR demonstrating a willingness to advance and adapt with the times, it seemed likely FMR and the Fidelity name would continue to succeed and dominate the financial services sector.
Fidelity Institutional Retirement Services Company; Fidelity Investments Actuarial Consulting Services; Fidelity Investments Public Sector Services Company; Fidelity Employer Services Company; Fidelity Investments Tax-Exempt Services Company; Fidelity Group Pensions International; Fidelity Group Pensions Japan; Fidelity Management Trust Company; Fidelity Brokerage Services Inc.; Fidelity Customer Marketing and Development Group; Fidelity Distributors Corporation; Fidelity Retail Distribution and Services; Fidelity Retail Operations and Technology; Fidelity Service Company, Inc.; National Financial Services Company; Fidelity Investments Canada Limited; Fidelity Money Management, Inc.; Strategic Advisers, Inc.; BostonCoach; Fidelity Interactive Company; J. Robert Scott; Community Newspaper Co.; Fidelity Investments Life Insurance Company; The Seaport Hotel; Devonshire Custom Publishing; Fidelity Investments Personal Trust Company; Tempworks/Tempsource; World Trade Center Boston.
Fidelity Investments Institutional Retirement Group; Fidelity Personal Investments & Brokerage Group; Fidelity Investments Institutional Services Company, Inc.; Fidelity Brokerage Services Japan, LLC; Fidelity Management & Research Company; Fidelity Corporate Systems and Services; Fidelity Capital; Fidelity Ventures.
The Charles Schwab Corporation; T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc.; The Vanguard Group, Inc.
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Fierman, Jaclyn, “Fidelity’s Secret: Faithful Service,” Fortune, May 7, 1990, pp. 86–92.
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——, “What’s Behind Fidelity’s Riveting Results,” Business Week, November 22, 1993, p. 114.
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—Timothy Bay and Kim M. Magon
—updated by Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf and Mariko Fujinaka
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