10 Things You Didn’t Know about Abigail Johnson

Abigail Johnson is chairman and CEO of FMR LLC, the parent company of Fidelity Investments, a leading multinational financial services corporation with $3.3 trillion in assets under management and a combined total customer asset value number of $8.3 trillion. Since taking the helm at Fidelity, Johnson has ushered in a series of changes that have moved the company away from traditional revenue streams and into new territory. In the process, she’s increased profits exponentially – in her first year as CEO alone, she increased Fidelity’s profits to over $5 billion for the first time in its history. To learn more about one of America’s richest and most powerful women, keep reading.

1. She’s worth $15 billion

Johnson ranks as one of the richest women in the world. According to Forbes, the Fidelity CEO has a net worth estimated to be in the region of $15 billion. The majority of her wealth is derived from shares in Fidelity Investment. Current estimates suggest she holds 24.5% in shares. Her stupendous wealth led Forbes to name her The Richest Person in America’s 50 Largest Cities in 2016. She also enjoys the current title of the richest person in Massachusetts.

2. She studied at Harvard

Growing up in Cambridge, MA, Johnson excelled at her studies at the independent school, Buckingham Browne and Nichols. After leaving high school, she studied at Hobart and William Smith College, graduating in 1984 with a bachelor of arts degree in art history. After a brief stint as a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton (where, incidentally, she met her future husband Christopher McKown, who currently serves as the president of Force Financial Services), she won a place at Harvard Business School, graduating in 1988 with an MBA. She combined her graduate studies with a part-time summer job at Fidelity.

3. She worked her way up the ladder at Fidelity

Considering that Fidelity was founded by Johnson’s grandfather, Edward C. Johnson II, it’s tempting to think Johnson was handed a plum job on a plate. But no. After graduating from Harvard, she started as a bottom-rung analyst at Fidelity. If she wanted a top job, she was going to have to earn it in the same way as everyone else. Over the next few years, she worked on climbing the ladder with roles of ever-increasing seniority. After working as an analyst and portfolio manager for the best part of a decade, she was appointed President of Fidelity Asset Management in 2001. Four years later, she was promoted to Head of Retail, Workplace, and Institutional Business. She was named president in 2012, and in 2014, she stepped into the role of CEO following her father’s departure. In 2016, she became the first woman (and coincidentally, the first person whose name isn’t Edward) to sit as Fidelity’s chairperson.

4. She’s doing it for the girls

As bostonmagazine.com writes, Johnson has repeatedly stressed her commitment to promoting investment interest among women. Since taking on the CEO role, she’s commissioned teams to study how financial services and products are perceived along gender lines, as well as rolling out recruitment drives at colleges and in “service” industries that have a strong female presence. Thanks to Fidelity’s youth-focused Boundless program, the company is actively working with young women aged between 14 to 22 to encourage and educate them on careers in financial service.

5. She’s the chair of Fidelity Worldwide Investment

As if being the chair and CEO of Fidelity Investments (FMR) wasn’t enough to keep her occupied, Johnson is also the chair of Fidelity Worldwide Investment (FIL Limited), a separate, independent company that offers asset management services to international investors. She joined the board at FIL as a director in 2012 before being appointed its chair in 2014.

6. She’s a secret philanthropist

It’s rare for Johnson to do interviews and even rarer for her to speak publicly about anything that doesn’t directly relate to Fidelity. However, like the rest of the Johnson family, she’s known to be a generous philanthropist who’s contributed widely to various non-profits in Boston, along with Harvard and The Institute of Contemporary Art.

7. She swings both ways

The notoriously private Johnson has a history of playing both sides of the fence when it comes to politics. In 2016, she contributed $2,700 (the maximum amount any donor can legally make during presidential primary campaigns) to Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush. Shortly after, she contributed around $330,000 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

8. She’s the first female board member at the Financial Services Forum

As well as being the first female CEO of Fidelity and one of the very few women to head up a multinational investment company, Johnson is also the first (and so far, only) woman to serve on the board of the Financial Services Forum, a non-partisan economic policy and advocacy organization whose membership entirely comprises of the CEOS of the eight largest financial institutions based in the US.

9. She’s taking Fidelity in a new direction

Since taken over as CEO in 2014, Johnson hasn’t been slow to implement changes at Fidelity. In a move away from the company’s traditional reliance on open-end mutual funds (which have fallen out of favor with investors over recent years), she’s focused on exploiting the revenue potential of financial advice, brokerage services, and venture capital. She’s also doubled down on attracting a new, younger audience with products specifically targeted at millennials. In 2018, Johnson introduced cryptocurrency investment at Fidelity, making it one of the very few financial firms in the US to venture into Bitcoin territory. The efforts are clearly paying off: within one year of Johnson taking the help, Fidelity’s profits had exceeded £5 billion for the first time in the company’s history. By 2017, profits had grown to an even more staggering $6.9 billion.

10. She ranks as one of the most powerful women in the world

Forbes has consistently ranked Johnson among the most powerful women in the world for the past 6 years. In 2014, she debuted on the publications ‘The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women’ at number 34. Since then, she’s been steadily climbing up the ranks, achieving 19th place in 2015, 16th in 2016, 7th in 2017, 5th in 2018, and 7th in 2019. This year, she also made it to Fortune’s list of the world’s most powerful women.


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