Most Powerful Women in Finance: No. 2, Abigail Johnson, Fidelity
when abigail johnson, president and ceo of fidelity investments, was recently asked to advise those in the early stages of their careers, she emphasized the core values she and her company have embraced for decades, “don “do not doubt yourself. Keep firm. keep looking to the future. stay committed and stay true to yourself,” she said.
Johnson has been Fidelity’s CEO since 2014 and its Chairman since 2016. Last year, the Boston-based firm reported a 15% increase in revenue in 2021, surpassing the 13% jump for the year previous) as a retailer- investment accounts climbed 22% to 32.4 million. Gains were boosted by a flood of new retail investors joining the market with the help of government stimulus money issued amid ongoing pandemic lockdowns.
fidelity’s multi-year effort to engage a younger investor demographic also contributed to the company’s impressive earnings: 2.3 million new individual investors ages 18-35 have joined fidelity’s client list in the last quarters.
one-fourth of the u.s. households now have digital assets, with those under 30 showing the most interest. Approximately 39% of Gen Z and 38% of Millennials now interact with digital assets on a regular basis, most often on their mobile phones. The Johnson organization has remained at the forefront in catering to this increasingly influential demographic.
“Being able to understand the profiles of younger customers really helped us,” he told fintech sandbox last year at Boston Tech Week. “People told us they wanted more things to be available on mobile devices, and we made it a priority. Reaching that demographic and thinking more carefully about their needs is something we’re well positioned to do. “
Speaking at Consensus 2022, Johnson explained that he wants his company to move “as fast as we can” to fully meet the growing demand for digital asset products. however, many short-term challenges remain.
“If you think about the structure of everything that is traded on the blockchain compared to what is traded through the legacy world of settlements, there is simply nothing that is the same,” he said. Delving into the hurdles of integrating the company’s legacy business with digital loyalty assets, he said, “There’s a full-service model in the legacy financial services business that’s hard to reconcile with what you get as a customer experience in today’s world of digital assets.”
In a post-consensus memo, Johnson called for a doubling down on digital assets and reiterated his firm’s commitment to cryptocurrency. she views the current cryptocurrency pullback as inevitable, a healthy market correction. she recommends a contrary thinking, “persevere when others doubt”, in the face of the current crypto winter.
The company is also figuring out how it can reach more women, who control a growing set of investments. fidelity has been hiring more women for its branches, as well as redesigning them to be more customer-friendly.
“We received feedback that our branches were too corporate,” Johnson said. “the same people who made our offices made the branches, so I guess it wasn’t that surprising. It’s just that nobody stopped to think about it.”
A behind-the-scenes hiring push is taking place through fidelity’s leap program, an initiative to attract recent graduates to work for the company. “Half of the new techies in this jump show are women,” said Kathleen Murphy, former president of Fidelity Personal Investing, in the interview with Bloomberg.
But even as you seek out new clients and explore new technologies like blockchain and roboadvice, loyalty doesn’t mean giving up actively managed funds. “I’d like to think that people will continue to pay for active management,” Johnson said in the interview. “That’s the core value proposition we’ve always been known for.”