As of mid-January, Abigail Johnson will no longer serve on the board of trustees overseeing the mutual funds at Fidelity Investments, the company confirmed last week. Johnson is relinquishing her responsibilities merely as a result of shifting from head of the fund unit to running the retirement services division, a company spokeswoman told The Boston Globe.
Analysts, however, are not so sure that the reason one of the key members of the family owning Fidelity would give up such a key position is mere protocol. Morningstar analyst Chris Traulsen said he viewed the move as a demotion, although he tempered that by saying it wasn't really "a big deal." On the other hand, Jim Lovell, editor of Fidelity Investor, said it could be an indication Johnson is going to build out the institutional business. "This could be an indication she's taken on the Herculean task of trying to create an institutional-services company out of thin air, and focusing on that," Lovell said.
Although a Fidelity spokeswoman denied a third scenario, others wondered still if Fidelity's decision to remove Johnson from the board was simply to meet the new ratio standards for independent directors. Her departure raises the percentage of independent directors from 71% to 77%, meeting the new 75% requirement.