Fidelity President Rodger Lawson To Step Down

This morning I
met with Fidelity President Rodger Lawson for two reasons. First, to review the
health of Fidelity’s overall business with respect to its various businesses: a
semi-annual occurrence. The bottom line is one we already benefitted from and
knew: Fidelity ‘s fund performance enjoyed a solid comeback last year. Less
visible, but as crucial, Fidelity continues to gain market share across most of
its boards against the backdrop of many of its competitors having been brought
to their knees or worse. Fidelity’s business is bedrock solid. Fidelity funds
(in the main) are on the upswing.
So, the good news from today’s meeting is that the man Fidelity put in place to
create a better overall structure for its diversified business, and to exact better
top- and bottom line accountability from its division heads, has accomplished
his goals. The less good news: he’s leaving.
There is nothing all that surprising about Lawson’s leaving; this summer I
spoke to the Wall Street Journal, among others, about how Lawson had seemed to
have accomplished his goal, and that his departure was not an “if” but a “when”.
In a personal letter to his colleagues he noted that the time has simply come
to step aside as president, while remaining in an advisory role, in order to
better enable the overall company to grow. His departure, effective the end of
this quarter, comes as a result of having positioned Fidelity to do just that.
Such top-line changes rarely result in any tangible investment-related issues;
and this is no exception. Day in and out, the managers will continue to mange
their funds their way, and outperform, or it’s the highway. The change could
impact the vision and mission of Fidelity’s overall business. But with Lawson
staying on in an advisory role, I don’t see any dramatic changes to what has
been a decade long effort to ensure that Fidelity, unlike any other fund shop,
is in fact a safe and secure diversified financial services firm – full stop.