Also at play are the differences in personalities and management styles between the two Johnsons.
When describing Ms. Johnson and her leadership style, “quiet” is the word most sources used.
“Abigail is quiet,” Mr. Lowell, the newsletter editor, said. “She's not going to be Jack Bogle,” referring to the often outspoken Vanguard Group founder and former CEO.
Mr. Lowell added, however, she's also “very collegial and engaged.”
“She's very quiet in meetings,” the former Fidelity executive said. “And that's hard for some people, since she doesn't give feedback. Ned tells you where you are.”
Ms. Johnson declined to be interviewed for this story.
Ms. Johnson has been steadily climbing Fidelity's leadership ladder for years as other possible candidates to replace her father — including former mutual fund division President Robert C. Pozen and former Chief Operating Officer Robert L. Reynolds — resigned.
She became president in September 2013.
Mr. Lowell pointed out that while Mr. Johnson's “skill set was that he was a superb money manager,” Ms. Johnson's “relates to management and managing the growth of a financial conglomerate.”
In addition, Mr. Johnson has been known for “big-picture” thinking, Mr. Lowell said; Ms. Johnson has cultivated a reputation for being very detail oriented.
“Fidelity's a big financial services company, and she's been running divisions of it until now,” said John Bonnanzio, editor of the Reno, Nev.-based newsletter Fidelity Monitor & Insight. “And when you're running pieces of it, you need to be precise in what to pay attention to. You're not doing a good job unless you're aware of the nuts and bolts.”
“She knows how to fix what's broken, whereas her dad would have traded in what was broken for a new vehicle. Ned's importance comes from his vision, not from his implementation of it. Abigail's all about great execution,” Mr. Lowell said.
The company has been seeing steady — albeit slow — inflows. Fidelity had $1.98 trillion in assets under management as of Sept. 30, data from the firm showed, up 6% from a year earlier.
That said, data from Chicago-based Morningstar Inc. show Fidelity experienced net outflows of $8.77 billion for the first three quarters of the year.
The process of Ms. Johnson's promotion was markedly different from PIMCO's recent leadership transition. Whereas William H. Gross' departure from the Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm was abrupt and unexpected — and has met with backlash from some clients — Ms. Johnson's move was orderly and anticipated, and so far, does not seem to be causing any concern among Fidelity's institutional clients.
“This will have no effect on our relationship with Fidelity,” its record keeper, said Ted Nasser, procurement and contracting services director for the $517 million 403(b) plan of the Arizona University System, Tucson.
The $14 billion Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund, Columbus, has $857 million with Pyramis in a core international equity strategy as well as $211 million in an international small-cap strategy. Pension fund spokesman David Graham said in an e-mail: “Nothing has changed with these accounts and the firms' standing with OP&F.”
An investment banker to money management firms said of the Abby Johnson promotion: “This was a complete opposite of the Bill Gross situation, where things were not anticipated, not well-planned and came at a spot where there was weakness at a company.”
“These events couldn't be any more different and couldn't illuminate the difference between the two companies more,” said Mr. Bonnanzio.