“Sometimes you can gradually improve things. But sometimes, they don’t work, and you’ve just got to just say: Let’s grind this baby to a halt.” ~Abigail Johnson
The fourth richest woman in the United States after the Walton and Mars families is Abigail Johnson, heiress in fortune and management of mega fund management firm Fidelity Investments. Last year, CEO Ned Johnson promoted his daughter to president of the firm, after over 20 years of working her way up the ranks of the company.
It was never clear that she would be the successor until the latest promotion in August, as Johnson always had equal executives around her throughout her time with the business. Abigail Johnson ranks number 74 on Forbes’ global list of billionaires, a list that is heavily laden with men. Although Johnson comes from a rich family, and her father is the heir of his father, who founded Fidelity, people close to Johnson say she is well liked and respected in and out of the office.
Fidelity is the second largest fund management company in the U.S. with $1.7 trillion being managed. The company handles brokerage, retirement and benefit funds and personal asset management. Johnson has an impressive record with the firm, outperforming her benchmarks as an analyst and later growing the retirement funds administration by 10% from 2007 to 2011 after taking it over in 2005, even during a period where the firm starting losing investments to competitors and losing its number one spot in the industry. She is also accredited with revamping Fidelity’s technology systems in the early 2000s. Though Ned Johnson has not formally stepped out of control, it is clear to followers of the firm that Abigail will take over when the 82-year-old retires.
Abigail Johnson has a reputation for privacy and seriousness. Johnson rarely speaks to the media, but has a reputation within the organization for an obsession with customer service and satisfaction, a trait she inherited from her father. Her leadership at Fidelity will likely be marked by improvements in efficiency and compensation, practices she already has made an impact with. Outside of work, Johnson is respected in her community for service and business skills, and was named a New England Person of the Year in 2012.