BOSTON — If Rodger Lawson intended to shake things up at Fidelity Investments, he is succeeding.
Since returning in August as president (he left in 1991 as chief executive officer of Fidelity Investments-retail), Mr. Lawson has been imposing greater accountability across the organization — a long overdue change, said one money management executive who had spent a decade at the Boston-based manager. The pace of change is proving unsettling for some: a growing number of long-serving Fidelity veterans have put their resumes in circulation, according to Fidelity alumni and executive recruiters.
People aren't saying that Mr. Lawson's campaign “is a bad thing ... just that it's a very different place to work than it's ever been before,” said another former Fidelity insider. He's “clearly running the company, looking at each individual business — the strategies and financial business plans — and deciding how he wants it to be run,” a process that has left a lot of longtime executives on tenterhooks, he said.
As part of that process, observers say a leaner and meaner Fidelity — with $1.6 trillion in assets under management — is both cutting expenses and revamping its compensation program to reward top performers.
Mr. Lawson declined to be interviewed, but spokeswoman Anne Crowley argues that Fidelity has always worked hard to control costs. The changes afoot at the company today are evolutionary, she said.
Fidelity watchers paint the latest changes there in more dramatic terms. “He's cutting expenses in a meaningful way” — the first time people at Fidelity have felt that kind of pressure, said one private equity executive, who declined to be named.
People there are being “read the riot act in terms of expenses and using outside vendors,” agreed John Bonnanzio, group editor of Wellesley, Mass.-based newsletter Fidelity Insight.
That pressure, and the rapid-fire departures over the past year of respected leaders such as Vice Chairman Robert Reynolds and Pyramis Global Advisors President Peter J. Smail, have made Fidelity a less hospitable place for some. “Morale there is abysmal,” said the private equity executive.