Nearly one-quarter of Fidelity Investments employees are voluntarily going back to the office, at least on a part-time basis. To Abby Johnson, chief executive of the Boston investment giant, it’s part of a grand experiment that’s still in the works.
When COVID-19 hit the United States in March 2020, being equipped to go remote paid dividends for Fidelity. Demand for its brokerage services skyrocketed amid the volatile stock market.
But now the slow return to the office has begun, and work life might never be the same. Speaking at a virtual Boston FinTech Week event on Friday, Johnson said 12,000 of Fidelity’s 52,000 employees volunteered to go back, primarily blending on-site and at-home days. Johnson doesn’t have return dates or other specific targets — at least not yet.
“We’re really trying to understand and observe,” Johnson said. “Our core planning teams are working on this, developing a sense of what’s the kind of work that best happens on site, and what’s the kind of work that’s very well done at home.”
Going remote can end brutal commutes, Johnson said, and allow the company to cast a much wider net when hiring. But the Fidelity boss also seems eager to see more of her colleagues in person.
“We know people can achieve things when they’re physically present with each other,” she said. “Fidelity teams value being together.”
She touched on several topics during her chat on Friday with FinTech Sandbox cofounder Sarah Biller. Among them: how Fidelity resonated with younger investors during the meme-stock mania of the past year. Fidelity opened up 2.7 million new accounts with investors under the age of 36 through August this year, double the pace of a year ago, thanks in part to social media.
On TikTok, Fidelity cranks out entry-level videos about investing, such as one that features a long-horned bull called “Colt” chewing cud and chilling on a farm. For the other extreme, head to Reddit, where Fidelity reps answer nitty-gritty questions about Roth IRAs and settlement times.
Fidelity might want to put out an APB across its social channels about its hiring plans: The company is trying to recruit some 9,000 people, from software engineers to customer service reps, by year’s end. A daunting task, especially in this job market. “No pressure,” Biller joked.
“We had to ramp up our recruiting,” Johnson said. “We still can’t get done everything we’d like to get done . . . to be the most competitive company we’d like to be.”
Losing track of time
The students at Boston College High School received a crash course in innovation, thanks to former HP chief executive Carly Fiorina.
Fiorina, now a business consultant, talked with BC High president Grace Cotter Regan last Thursday, in a virtual event sponsored by the school’s Shields Center for Innovation.
Fiorina said innovation is all about bucking the status quo, taking risks, and not being afraid to fail. The key is not to make the same mistake again. Many big, risk-averse companies get it wrong, she said.
“If you’re going to encourage risk taking, then you need to be able to tolerate mistake making,” Fiorina said. “No matter what you do, you will get criticized . . . Criticism is going to come with the territory.”
Fiorina also sounded off about the passage of time during the pandemic. As with most of us, it’s getting kind of blurry for Fiorina.
“It feels like sort of a whole year just disappeared,” Fiorina said. “I always have to mentally check: Is it 2021? Has it been a year-and-a-half, almost two years? And it has.”
Nuns vs. guns saga continues
Smith & Wesson might be running away from Massachusetts politicians with its surprise announcement to relocate the HQ from Springfield to Tennessee. But the gun maker can’t run away from the nuns.
Like Boston developer John Rosenthal, Sister Judy Byron of the Adrian Dominican Sisters has been dogging Smith & Wesson for years. Both activists have prodded the manufacturer to improve its safety practices in light of various mass shootings. Byron made the case at Smith & Wesson’s annual meeting last week for a shareholder proposal filed by her and other members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, calling on the company to adopt a human rights policy to mitigate risks in its operations and supply chain.
Byron’s proposal didn’t pass, but more than 40 percent of the shares were cast in its favor. Better luck next time?
Then chief executive Mark Smith announced the corporate relocation on Thursday, to a more gun-friendly state. A spokeswoman for the Interfaith Center said the headquarters move won’t stop her group’s pursuit.
Missing in action
The Boston College Chief Executives Club was about to hold its first large-scale gathering since the pandemic began at the Boston Harbor Hotel, where Moderna chief executive Stéphane Bancel would speak. To get in the door on Monday, you needed to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test — and, no, those jabbed with a Moderna shot were not given special preference in the seating arrangements. About 150 attendees were expected, roughly half the typical prepandemic number.
But the event was canceled at the last minute on Friday. A spokeswoman for Cambridge-based Moderna said Bancel had to be out of town unexpectedly.
During the pandemic, the club soldiered on virtually, with emcee Warren Zola holding forth with a varied cast of chief executives that included the likes of General Electric’s Larry Culp, Rapid7′s Corey Thomas, Jenny Johnson of Franklin Templeton, and Robert Ford of Abbott Labs. Zola held one hybrid event, with 40 attendees, in May when he interviewed Kimberly Budd, the chief justice of the state Supreme Judicial Court.
The next opportunities to hobnob with the honchos are in November, with Disney chief Bob Chapek scheduled to make an appearance on Nov. 15 and JPMorgan Chase boss Jamie Dimon returning to Boston on Nov. 23.
If you want to chat with Salary.com founder and chief executive Kent Plunkett, don’t expect him to leave his house.
Last week the Waltham company announced its acquisition of Turetsky Consulting, a sort of “acqui-hire”, as Plunkett put it, to snag human resources data guru David Turetsky. He’s local, but that didn’t matter much. The two worked out the deal via a video conference between Wellesley and Framingham.
“I’m literally 12 minutes away from him and we never went face-to-face,” Plunkett said.
Turetsky left ADP to start his consulting firm last year and is known for his industry podcast. Plunkett, who founded Salary.com in 1999, said Turetsky “probably knows more people than I do at all the HR organizations, and I know pretty much everybody.”
The six-person Turetsky team will join Salary.com’s consulting arm, amid a hiring spree at the Waltham firm. Plunkett speaks highly of his roughly 70 “boomerangs,” or people that have rejoined the company since the founders bought it back from IBM in 2016, and the 18 marriages that have spawned a handful of Salary.com babies.
Bold Types is a weekly feature about the movers and shakers in Boston’s business world.
Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto. Anissa Gardizy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8 and on Instagram @anissagardizy.journalism.