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Executive Feature

Fidelity CEO Abby Johnson Shares The Best Professional Motto Ever

Posted by Amy Elisa Jackson

Last Updated May 30, 2018
|6 min read

Fidelity is laser-focused on innovation —And CEO Abby Johnson knows that attracting people to bring their diverse skills, experience, and perspectives to work in a culture that welcomes them for who they are is how Fidelity succeeds.

Johnson takes that responsibility seriously as evidenced by the swift actions she took when claims of employee misconduct surfaced last Fall. Johnson brought in experts on culture, moved her office to sit among the portfolio teams and sent a video message to the entire firm reinforcing the company’s zero-tolerance policy on harassment.

Her response is reflective of her personal motto: "Always challenge the status quo and embrace change as an opportunity for improvement.”

Glassdoor caught up with Johnson to talk about what she looks for in job applicants, her best career advice and how she takes calculated risks as a leader.

Glassdoor: In addition to watching out over your 40,000+ employees, how important is it to you to support women in the workplace? Does Fidelity have any programs in place to help women thrive in the workplace?

Abby Johnson: At Fidelity, we believe that diversity is a business imperative. A company that has associates with diverse backgrounds, and experiences is in the best position to thrive.

Supporting our employees in a way that allows individuals to bring their whole selves to work each and every day is one of the most important things we can do. This includes supporting women in the workplace. Fidelity established its Women’s Leadership Group (WLG) Employee Resource Group years ago. The WLG’s mission is to help women and Fidelity thrive. The group’s goals are to provide development opportunities to members with a focus on “developing the whole you — professional, personal and financial.”

Women are a critical part of the future of financial services. We want more women to consider our industry, and Fidelity, for their careers and we are committed to providing benefits and programs to enhance our culture that will help us to develop and retain our women leaders.

Examples of these benefits and programs include: generous paid parental leave (16 weeks; 6 weeks spousal), paid leave to care for a loved one (4 weeks), student loan repayment program and flexible work options, and backup daycare. In addition, our RESUME return-to-work internship offers an opportunity for people to accelerate their career path despite time away from the workforce. Fidelity is one of the only companies offering a program that offers this kind of path with a specific focus on licensing in the financial advisor space.

Glassdoor: Switching gears a bit, Fidelity is one of the most broadly diversified financial services firms in the industry. Given your insight into the economy and the labor market, what are some of the trends you are seeing as it pertains to the future of work? What are you telling your direct reports and teams to keep an eye out for?

Abby Johnson: We are seeing two big trends: the speed of changing demographics and the speed of innovation. By 2044, there will be no ethnic majority in the U.S. and, women are surpassing their counterparts in levels of education and workforce participation. In addition, innovation is happening at a rapid pace and companies need to be constantly incubating new ideas. I want Fidelity to tap into the power of our differences by looking for associates with diverse backgrounds and experiences and ensuring that our culture welcomes them and creates an environment where everyone thrives.

Glassdoor: What advice do you have for your employees to navigate this new world as they think about their careers and professional development?

Abby Johnson: My biggest advice to friends and colleagues is to always have that hunger and intellectual curiosity to grow and learn — both personally and professionally. At Fidelity, we encourage our associates to explore, discover, create and experience different areas of the company. With 10 regional offices, more than 190 financial planning offices and opportunities that span the globe, individuals have the freedom to map their own career route and follow their passions. I also encourage individuals to not think of a career as a succession of job titles. Instead, look at your path as a stream of experiences. Whether it’s learning new skills and becoming more agile in how you work, or getting involved in the communities where you work and live — and always bring your whole self to work. Bringing more vitality in all areas of your life can also benefit your career.

Glassdoor: As you think about the future of work, what do you look for in candidates who are applying to Fidelity? Specifically, what interview questions do you ask those who you personally interview?

Abby Johnson: As a customer-obsessed company, our workforce needs to be a reflection of the diverse background and desires of those who choose us as their financial services provider. We need to serve our customers what they want in the way they want it — and that means having a deep curiosity and a digital mindset. I often say that we have to have a 24/7 mentality because that’s what our customers expect in today’s digital world. This is not just a problem to be solved by our 12,000 technologists that keep our platforms up and running, but by all of Fidelity’s associates — because all of our associates are also customers.

When I interview candidates, I want to hear how they can tap into the power of their own differences to generate ideas for our customers, as well as how they support and encourage their colleagues to develop. That’s one of our leadership principles: empowering and coaching others to their full potential. I’m always interested in hearing personal stories and ideas about how leaders can inspire the next generation of leaders in our company.

Glassdoor: Now for a few fun ones — share three fun facts about yourself.

Abby Johnson:

  • I was an art history major in college.
  • One of my favorite shows is the HBO series, “Silicon Valley.”
  • My favorite outdoor activity is skiing.

Glassdoor: What’s been your most rewarding moment as CEO? Your most challenging?

Abby Johnson: My biggest challenge has been to push Fidelity to increase our pace of innovation and to not be afraid to make the occasional mistake. Since our founding more than 70 years ago, we have always been a leader in the use of technology and in offering new products and services. But being a customer-obsessed company, we are very focused on delivering a great customer experience. And this means that we can sometimes be cautious in introducing new things. To be successful in a rapidly evolving world, we need to take smart risks and value pace over perfection… another one of Fidelity leadership principles.  The risk of competitive disruption in financial services has never been higher than it is today. I would rather disrupt ourselves than let us become complacent and get surprised by new ideas and innovations from a competitor.

Glassdoor: What’s your personal motto? What words do you live by?

Abby Johnson: Always challenge the status quo and embrace change as an opportunity for improvement.

 

1. U.S. Census Bureau: The Census Bureau predicts shifts in the U.S. over the coming years, with a more diverse — and older — population, 2015

2. 143 women:100 men, women are earning graduate degrees at a faster rate; women represent 57percent of workforce; McKinsey & Company, Why Diversity Matters, January 2015

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