(updated with correction)
Ronald P. O'Hanley has the temperament and business savvy needed to occupy the premier industry hot seat between Edward “Ned” Johnson, chairman and CEO of Fidelity Investments, and his daughter Abigail, industry executives say.
There's no consensus, however, on whether Mr. O'Hanley, who built BNY Mellon Asset Management into a multiboutique powerhouse, is simply warming that seat, like other high-powered Fidelity executives before him, or whether he could eventually move up and inherit Mr. Johnson's job.
Fidelity Investments' May 10 announcement that the Boston-based company would be split into two — a distribution arm led by Ms. Johnson and a money management arm run by Mr. O'Hanley — ended months of speculation following Rodger A. Lawson's retirement in January.
Mr. Lawson served fewer than three years as president and second in command to Mr. Johnson — a tumultuous period for both financial markets and Fidelity's executive lineup. His July 2007 hiring led to the abrupt departure of Ellyn A. McColgan. She had been anointed in the press a few months earlier as Abigail Johnson's main competition to succeed Mr. Johnson, following the resignation of Vice Chairman Robert L. Reynolds.
Executives at Moody's Investors Service, which took issue in a November 2007 report with Fidelity's lack of a clear succession plan, said the latest leadership announcement hasn't addressed their concerns.
“We've seen this movie before,” and the latest version still doesn't provide a clear picture of how Fidelity will be led after Mr. Johnson, Daniel Serrao, a senior vice president with Moody's global managed investments group, said in a recent interview. If anything, with Mr. Johnson poised to turn 80, the “transition risk” Moody's cited in 2007 is heightened, added Dagmar Silva, vice president and senior analyst with the group, in the same interview.
In response, Fidelity spokesman Vin Loporchio said Mr. Johnson remains “very actively involved in running the company every day, and has no immediate plans to retire.” Still, Fidelity has a succession plan in place to ensure a smooth transition if that becomes necessary, he added, declining to provide details.
Some industry watchers said they see clear signs that Abigail Johnson has emerged with the keys to the company firmly in her grasp following the latest leadership shuffle, with Mr. O'Hanley — a former McKinsey & Co. consultant — poised to play the perfect “number two” role.