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Johnson, Abby 1961–

Abby Johnson
1961

President, Fidelity Investments

Nationality: American.

Born: December 19, 1961, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Education: Hobart and William Smith College, BA, 1984; Harvard University, MBA, 1988.

Family: Daughter of Edward C. Johnson III (chief executive officer and chairman, Fidelity Investments) and Elizabeth Hodges Johnson; married Christopher J. McKown (cofounder, Health Dialog); children: two.

Career: Booz Allen Hamilton, 19841986, research associate; Fidelity Investments, 19881993, investment analyst; 19931996, fund manager; 19961997, manager, Fidelity Trend Fund; 19972001, senior vice president; 2001, president.

Address: Fidelity Investments (FMR Corporation), 82 Devonshire Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02109; http://www.fidelity.com.

Abigail "Abby" Pierrepont Johnson was the president of Fidelity Investments and the third in line in control of the company. She became a member of the Fidelity board of directors in 1994 and oversaw Fidelity's $1 trillion mutual fund operation. Johnson was well versed in the Fidelity culture. Her grandfather had founded the company, her father was the CEO and chairman, and through her college years, Johnson spent her summers working at Fidelity. After two-year stints at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton and Harvard Business School, Johnson became a full-fledged member of Fidelity in 1988. Johnson was low-key in demeanor and action, shunning the limelight much as her father had. She exuded gentle pressure to achieve the results she wanted. BusinessWeek called Johnson the most powerful woman in U.S. finance and as 25.4 percent owner of Fidelity one of the richest women in the world, with an estimated net worth of $10 billion.

THE APPRENTICE

Johnson followed the path of her father, whose father Edward C. Johnson II, had founded Fidelity in 1946. Edward C. Johnson III took over when his father retired in 1977. Abby Johnson shared her father's philosophy of being discreet and shunning publicity. She had visited her father numerous times while growing up and was drawn to the buzz and energy of the trading room. After graduating from Hobart in 1984, Johnson spent two years at Booz Allen Hamilton because she believed that she should not spend her entire career at Fidelity. However, after graduating from Harvard Business School, Johnson began her apprenticeship at Fidelity.

Johnson's first job at Fidelity was an analyst covering the industrial equipment industry. She looked back fondly on this first job, having kept models of trucks and bulldozers. She then managed six mutual funds, among them the Select Industrial Equipment Fund, the Dividend Growth Fund, the OTC Portfolio, and the Fidelity Trend Fund. She was successful in achieving good results in the management of these funds.

Johnson's success as a fund manager led in 1997 to her appointment as associate director and senior vice president of the equity division of Fidelity. She was one of three senior vice presidents who reported to Robert Pozen, the head of Fidelity's mutual fund division. During her tenure in this role, Johnson served as a mentor to new fund managers and learned from her father's closest advisors how to be a better manager of people. Two of these advisors were Peter Lynch, the vice chairman of Fidelity, and James Curvey, the retired vice chairman. Other executives who influenced Johnson were Robert Reynolds, the COO of Fidelity; Andrew Grove, the chairman of Intel; and Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric.

HEIR APPARENT

In 2001, after reported personality conflicts with Pozen, Abby Johnson was appointed president of Fidelity. This appointment led many analysts to speculate that Edward Johnson III was grooming her to succeed him, although both Johnson and her father said that he had no plans to retire from Fidelity. Abby Johnson did not expect to be handed the role. In an August 8, 1999, article in the Boston Globe, she was quoted as saying, "I work here because I want to, not because people think I have to. I definitely want to continue to have a role at Fidelity." In her first year as president, Johnson tried to push Fidelity in a new direction. Under Pozen's leadership Fidelity had created benchmarks, and Pozen had instilled discipline among its fund managers. Johnson, who continued to use the benchmark system, urged managers to take more risks and to use the art of stock picking to revitalize Fidelity's mutual funds. By adding a broader range of investment options, Johnson hoped to regain customers lost to higher-performing mutual funds. After September 11, 2001, Fidelity allowed itscustomers access to its accounts in a good-faith attempt to show the company was customer oriented. When asked about her investment philosophy for an article for the New York Times, Johnson replied, "It's helpful to use kung fu" (May 22, 2001). Johnson, who rarely made public statements, in June 2004 castigated Fidelity's competition for allowing trading abuses. Fidelity profited from the missteps of its competitors. Under Johnson's leadership from 2001 to 2004 Fidelity added $100 billion to its mutual fund. Lawrence Lieberman, a man aging director at Orion Group, told the Contra Costa Times, "She's silenced the critics who questioned whether she was the right person for the job" (June 4, 2004).

See also entry on Fidelity Investments Inc. in International Directory of Company Histories.

sources for further information

Browning, Lynnley, "Fidelity's Unassuming Heir: Johnson Daughter Weighs Her Options," Boston Globe, August 8, 1999.

"Fidelity Investments Announces Management Changes in Equity Division," BusinessWire, January 17, 1997.

"Fidelity Investments Announces New Management Structure for Equity Division," BusinessWire, April 30, 1997.

Hakim, Danny, "Fidelity Picks a President of Funds Unit," New York Times, May 22, 2001.

Hunter, Matthew, "Key Fidelity Post for CEO's Daughter," American Banker, May 22, 2001, p. 19.

Lau, Debra, "Fidelity Promotes Abigail Johnson to President," Forbes.com, May 21, 2001, http://www.forbes.com/2001/05/21/0521fidelity.html.

Smith, Geoffrey, "Here Comes Abby," BusinessWeek, July 8, 2002, p. 56.

Teitelbaum, Richard, and Aaron Pressman, "Fidelity President Says Fund Firms Did 'Stupid Things,'" Contra Costa Times June 4, 2004.

Wyatt, Edward, "Making Way For Fidelity's Heir Apparent," New York Times, February 15, 1998.

Jill Meister

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