Fidelity CEO Abby Johnson was not born a leader.
The first female head of the 76-year-old, $4-billion investment firm may have been born into the business, but she had to learn how to lead it. Johnson, who took the helm of the venerable financial firm from her father Edward Johnson in 2014, sits at number six of Forbes’ list of “Power Women.” In her nearly a decade as CEO, she has taken the Boston-based company beyond managing mutual funds, by investing in technology and other investment classes, most notably the blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
On her leadership learnings, she says, “One of my main responsibilities is to create a supportive environment where Fidelity leaders and associates are comfortable and confident asking uncomfortable questions about our business strategy, culture, and customers. When people feel comfortable offering up ideas, then this creates an environment of confidence.”
“Change can be scary, but it can also be exciting,” she told The Pulteney Street Survey, the alumni publication of Hobart and William Smith College. “There is always going to be tension. There’s the tension of honoring our past, but adapting to the future needs of a digital business.”
As for her move into new technologies and investments, the usually reticent Johnson revealed the following: “Crypto is a dynamic, fast-growing market, and the volatility in the digital-assets market is because it is a new asset type and so its adoption as a store of value is not going to be linear. The day-to-day volatility may come down over time as the industry develops new products, which will lead to more ownership by more market participants.”
Johnson began her career at Fidelity in 1988, and in those 34 years she has held various positions, all in the name of becoming a leader.