Fidelity Investments' recent management reshuffle may be a sign of merger deals to come at the Boston-based fund company, says Charles Jaffe in an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Jaffe says that the transfer of Abigail Johnson, the daughter of Fidelity chairman Ned Johnson III, from the company's money management business to its retirement services business "puts her in charge of some of Fidelity's most important business relationships, the ones that will be crucial in what happens next."
Jaffe rules out any possible plans by the company to go public on Ned Johnson's watch, "but when Ned Johnson is gone, the younger Johnsons-- who do not seem to have his zeal for the business - may be looking to do something different."
Fidelity has been building enormous backroom operations, and servicing retirement plans and brokerage customers, Jaffe notes, adding that "if ever a merger partner is going to emerge, it will rise from those business relationships, in part because that is the only type of deal the Johnson family would ever consider."
In that regard, Jaffe considers Bank of America to be Fidelity's strongest ally. "Fidelity caters to B-of-A's servicing needs like no one else; in everything from executing trades to marketing bonds to operating Web sites for its accounts, Fidelity and Bank of America are thick as thieves. The consumer cannot see these ties, but insiders acknowledge that the links exist," says Jaffe.
Bank of America, which is looking to grow its mutual fund business, would make a suitable match with Fidelity, Jaffe says.