The day may not be far off when Abigail Johnson joins the small but growing club of women CEOs at major financial-services firms. The Fidelity Investments executive is widely considered to be next in line to run the company that her grandfather founded in 1946—an assumption she’s done nothing to dispel since taking on broader duties at the firm last year.
Her role was expanded in May 2010 to encompass all of Fidelity’s customer- and client-focused businesses. The new title added Fidelity’s wide array of institutional distribution channels—covering services to banks, broker-dealers, insurers, registered investment advisors and the like—to her existing responsibilities over Fidelity’s personal and workplace investing businesses.
No. 22 on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans, with an estimated net worth of $11.3 billion as of March, Johnson is a vice chairman and director of FMR, the holding company for Fidelity Investments’ businesses. She also sits on the Fidelity Executive Committee.
Johnson began with the firm in 1988 as an analyst. Her family owns 49 percent of the company, and her father, 81-year-old Edward "Ned" Johnson III, is the current CEO. He stepped down this year as trustee and chairman of Fidelity’s Equity and High Income Funds Board, which oversees hundreds of billions of dollars in mutual fund assets—only adding to the speculation about when his daughter might be tapped to succeed him.
Many expect Johnson will be the next CEO at Fidelity, an industry powerhouse with $3.7 trillion of assets under administration, $1.7 trillion of managed assets and $1.5 trillion in mutual fund assets under management, as of May. —Heather Landy
2. Barbara Byrne
Vice Chair, Investment Banking, Barclays Capital
At Barclays Capital, Barbara Byrne has continued the kind of work that defined her 28-year career at Lehman Brothers: fomenting close ties with large corporate clients like GE and Hewlett-Packard. She also is a senior statesman for her firm in the civic arena, with her participation in organizations such as the Clinton Global Initiative. Byrne plays a key role in recruiting at Barclays and champions its Women’s Initiatives Network.
"I believe in the power of a team and the creative energy unleashed by different viewpoints. I view conflict as an opportunity and am drawn to addressing it directly and finding workable solutions that move teams forward. A sense of humor goes a long way toward finding common ground."
3. Ruth Porat
CFO, Morgan Stanley
One of Morgan Stanley’s priorities heading into 2011 was to unwind an expensive arrangement it struck in a moment of weakness, when it sold an $8 billion preferred-share stake to Mitsubishi UJF during the 2008 credit crisis. Leading Morgan out of the morass was Ruth Porat, who helped negotiate a stock conversion that netted Mitsubishi a $2 billion premium and relieved Morgan of a $787 million annual dividend burden, while shoring up the firm’s Tier 1 capital ratio. Being a top dealmaker and keeping a careful focus on capital exposure is what has earned Porat one of the highest profiles on Wall Street, and allowed her to prosper in a role that has not been especially kind to other women in financial services (see Sallie Krawcheck at Citigroup, Erin Callahan at Lehman). She also is becoming heavily involved in policy issues, as one of 14 members of the U.S. Treasury’s borrowing advisory committee.
4. Val Soranno Keating
Barclaycard was the No. 3 credit-card issuer in the U.K. when Val Soranno Keating took over as CEO in November 2009. Now it’s in the No. 1 slot, and processes $320 billion in annual payment volume, propelled by new innovations in loyalty programs, small-business products, and online and mobile payment services. Pretax profit in the first half of 2011 jumped 65 percent from the same period last year. The growth stems in part from acquisitions, like the Egg Credit Card portfolio in the U.K. and the MBNA small-business credit card portfolio. A new point-of-sale redemption program in the U.K. and a stateside partnership with card rewards marketer Cartera Commerce has increased loyalty enrollment to more than 3 million. Last May, Soranno-Keating, a former American Express executive, led Barclaycard in a partnership that introduced the U.K.’s first payment-enabled mobile phone.
"Resist the temptation to hire in your own image. Teams with the broadest diversity in thinking and experiences are, by far, the most powerful."
5. Nicole Arnaboldi
Vice Chair, Asset Management, Credit Suisse
Besides her role in moving Credit Suisse past Goldman atop the private-equity rankings, Nicole Arnaboldi has helped the investment bank’s Asset Management Finance unit to double its minority-stake holdings in alternative investment hedge funds like Brigade Capital Management and FX Concepts. She also has been instrumental in Credit Suisse’s PE expansion in emerging markets. Arnaboldi came to Credit Suisse in 2000 when the firm merged with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, where she had spent 15 years primarily in private-equity and venture-capital roles.
"Strive for success in your job, but also try to find time to do something you’re passionate about apart from your work. Whether it’s starting a family, serving on a not-for-profit board or pursuing a sport, it will give you perspective and be very rewarding."