Abby Johnson

wealthymatters.comAbigail Pierrepont Johnson,an heiress to a Boston family fortune derived from farming,oil and gas,lumbering,a hotel,real estate services,a bus line and the investment management company Fidelity has a personal net worth estimated by the Bloomberg Billionaires index at $10 billion.She is one of the world’s richest women. She’s also one of the most driven and hardworking. In her 24 years at Fidelity Investments, the mutual fund company founded by her grandfather, Abby has worked through two pregnancies and it is believed a bout with cancer in 2007 .

Abby is termed the Invisible heir.Silence has been her mode for years. She even said little when she was named president of Fidelity Investments Financial Services , making her second in command at the $3.8 trillion mutual fund company. She reports to her father, Fidelity Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Edward “Ned” Johnson III, and her elevation to the No. 2 position arguably makes Abby the most powerful woman in finance.With her ascension, Abby, 51, has become the leading member of what today is still a very small club. In the financial world, only a handful of women have reached the top ranks.

Born in 1961, Abby is the eldest of Ned and Elizabeth “Lillie” Johnson’s three children.(Her siblings are  Edward C. Johnson IV and Elizabeth L. Johnson.) Raised on Boston’s North Shore, she had a classic Boston Brahmin upbringing, attending the tony Buckingham Browne & Nichols school in Cambridge, summering at the family estate in Maine, and majoring in art history at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Despite the family’s fortune, estimated at about $22 billion today, she grew up with a flinty distaste for public displays of wealth, working as a waitress one summer and answering customer service calls at Fidelity during another. The Johnsons are rarely in the newspapers and even today Ned can walk down the streets of Boston unrecognized.

After graduating from college in 1984, Abby went to work not at Fidelity, but as an associate at the management consultant Booz Allen Hamilton. Next she went to Harvard to get her MBA, graduated in 1988, and that summer married Christopher McKown, a health-care entrepreneur she’d met when they both worked at Booz. They moved into the home they live in today with their two teenage daughters in the Boston suburb of Milton. The seven-bedroom house on a wooded 5.6-acre estate belonged to her grandfather.

Abby went to work for Fidelity shortly after her marriage, beginning a rigorous and long-running apprenticeship. She started as a stock analyst and then became a portfolio manager. From 1988 to 1997, she worked at six different funds and clocked in as one of Fidelity’s top managers in the first six months of 1995, with 25.2 percent returns on Fidelity’s $1.9 billion OTC Portfolio.

Abby moved out of portfolio management in 1997 and into Fidelity’s middle-executive ranks. During the next 14 years, she worked in virtually every key area of the company, running its equity information technology systems, the equity division, and its immense, now $1.5 trillion mutual fund operation. She also ran Fidelity’s vast retirement and benefits administration business, the area that includes Fidelity’s 401(k) division.In the process, Abby gained respect for her mastery of technology and management processes. People found that she was really driven by things that others find exhausting or even uninteresting and by an almost obsessive focus on the needs of Fidelity’s customers even if it was not the best thing, from the point of view of Fidelity’s bottom line.By 2007, Johnson had climbed to the senior-most executive ranks.

Soft-spoken and understated, she is a manager with a collaborative style, more in the mold of her collegial grandfather than her brusque father. She is very much a person who encourages debate and discussion.She doesn’t lead by fiat or by raising her voice or by asserting that she is the smartest person in the room.A style I personally believe is easier for many women to adopt than the He-man style encouraged by many MBA programs.Most of us are not going to inherit a fortune like hers but we can definitely benefit from adopting her work ethics , of course with time out for pregnancies and chemotherapy.Pulling one’s weight is admirable but feeling the need to look tough is inner weakness.




About Keerthika Singaravel

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