By | August 16, 2023

woman in professional clothes and glasses smiling

CEO Abby Johnson recently approved a measure allowing Fidelity clients to add Bitcoin to their retirement portfolio. Barry Chin—The Boston Globe/Getty Images

If you ask someone to describe Fidelity Investments, they will probably use words like “big, boring and safe.” That’s an accurate description of the Boston-based financial giant, which manages more than $4 trillion and is overseen by CEO Abby Johnson, granddaughter of Fidelity’s founder. Johnson is a steady hand who has kept the company drama-free, which is why it’s surprising to realize that she’s also been one of crypto’s biggest champions for a decade.

This occurred to me when I read one WSJ profile of the self-described “Fidelity mafia” – a group of crypto executives who started out as the asset manager. Some went on to take leadership roles at companies such as Galaxy Digital and mining giant Foundry, while another is a founding partner at VC firm Castle Island Ventures. They owe their current positions in part to Fidelity’s blue-chip name, but also to the experience they gained as a result of Johnson’s decision to lean into Bitcoin back in 2014 — a time when mainstream finance wanted nothing to do with crypto .

I remember my surprise when I spoke with a Fidelity executive in 2016 and learned that the company was not only exploring crypto, but was actively mining Bitcoin and Ethereum. Both then and now, Fidelity doesn’t like to talk about its crypto initiatives—a sensible policy given the bad press and regulatory hostility crypto has long attracted. And while some may suspect that the company’s crypto push happened in spite of Johnson, and not because of her Newspaper paragraph makes it clear that she has been a driving force. This included the CEO overruling pushback from Fidelity’s finance and security team over the purchase of Bitcoin mining rigs in 2014.

More recently, Johnson has greenlit measures such as allowing Fidelity customers to add Bitcoin to their retirement portfolios despite criticism from the Labor Department. Even the recent scandals that have engulfed the crypto industry have not shaken the CEO’s view of digital assets. As the Newspaper notes:

“Today, crypto continues to be seen as a long-term growth opportunity at Fidelity. The firm stores billions of dollars in client crypto assets, while the number of employees in its crypto unit has steadily risen to more than 600 from just a few dozen in 2018.”

All this puts Fidelity, which appeared Fortune’s inauguration Crypto 40 list, in a position to ride the next crypto boom, which is likely to be fueled in part by the approval of Bitcoin spot ETFs – which the company has already sought approval to offer. It’s a testament to Johnson’s leadership that she appreciated the importance of crypto assets ahead of her peers in traditional finance, and had the courage to follow a strategy that has paid off.

Jeff John Roberts
jeff.roberts@fortune.com
@jeffjohnroberts

DECENTRALIZED NEWS

Research data suggests PayPal’s new PYUSD stablecoin has had a slow start, even though the project was launched just three weeks ago. (Cointelegraph)

Binance have stopped allowing customers to pay each other through sanctioned Russian banks, with a company spokesman saying it had closed a gap in its compliance program. (WSJ)

Sam Bankman-Fried’s lawyers are pushing for a temporary release for the impostor before the trial begins in October. (CoinDesk)

The Ministry of Finance put forward long-awaited rules that will require crypto exchanges to deliver annual 1099 reports to IRS and customers to simplify tax reporting. (WSJ)

A JPMorgan the research note says the recent bearish trend in the crypto prices, which represented a selloff after a flurry of positive news, is likely over. (Bloomberg)

MEME O’ The Moment

Crypto projects are like that:


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