Fidelity Seeks To Burnish Reputation As Thought Leader

Seeking to pump up its leadership position among individual investors and policy makers, Fidelity Investments has developed a plan to provide research reports, host seminars and create at least one annual conference that will showcase emerging ideas and solutions for financial challenges.

The research arm of the world's largest mutual funds provider intends to create "objective" reports--even though the Fidelity Research Institute will rely in part on Fidelity's own analysts for insight.

Still to be formalized is a nine-member board of directors and an outside advisory board consisting of 15 to 20 experts from disciplines ranging from academia to public policy, Fidelity spokesperson Jenny Engle said yesterday.

Fidelity appointed longtime executive Guy Patton as executive director and W. Van Harlow, Ph.D., managing director of the institute, to be housed at Fidelity's Boston offices. Patton had been vice president of Fidelity's Human Resources Services Co. while Harlow, who joined Fidelity in 1991, was most recently president and CIO of Fidelity Asset Management Services.



All mutual funds companies provide research to clients; how the Fidelity Research Institute will be marketed remains to be determined, according to Engle.

Fidelity's primary competitors--Vanguard and Charles Schwab--package research differently. In its current "Talk to Chuck" print series, Schwab promises investors that "you don't have to qualify for our best research, you just get it" and operates as a division the Schwab Center for Investment Research. Vanguard posts podcasts on its site, offering advice on topics ranging from the reasons for investing to financing education.

Fidelity's first report at offers information on how to enhance retirement income and shows the downside of drawing on Social Security benefits too early. One example showed that a person who lives to 100 would collect $280,000 more by waiting to age 70 instead of 62 to tap into that first Social Security payment.

Arnold Worldwide is Fidelity's lead agency and created its current positioning line: "Smart move." A design firm, which Engle declined to name, created the logo for the research institute.

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