Rodger A. Lawson, 63, president of Fidelity Investments since 2007, will step down in March. The fund giant will likely select one or possibly three successors from its executive committee, Lawson announced in a briefing Wednesday.
It is unclear whether Chairman Edward C. Johnson III, 79, will leave the firm as well, although two long-speculated choices to replace Lawson are Abigail P. Johnson, his daughter, and Jacques Perold, who became head of Fidelity's investment management last year.
Upon his immediate departure, Lawson said, the executive committee will assume his duties on a day-to-day basis. "It's from this group that the future leadership of the company will come," he said. Lawson added that his boss "will be around for a while" and that Johnson will turn "a young 80" in June.
Analysts have credited Lawson, who called the past 2-1/2 years "brutal," with vastly improving performance at Fidelity, which, with $1.2 trillion in assets under management, is the nation's largest mutual fund company. On an asset-weighted basis, Fidelity's mutual funds are now outperforming 74% of their peers, with equity funds beating 66% of the competition. A year ago, Fidelity's funds were ahead of 56% of their peers overall and only 36% of equity funds.
Lawson and Chief Financial Officer Robert Chersi noted that Fidelity's assets under administration rose 23% in the last year to $3.2 trillion, up from $2.6 trillion at the end of 2008. The company's 401(k) business is strong and the 9,000 positions that Fidelity has eliminated since 2007 have strengthened the bottom line, they said. Fidelity now employs nearly 37,000.