February 27, 2018 / 4:07 PM / 4 months ago

Fidelity parent says profit surges despite stock fund withdrawals

BOSTON (Reuters) - The parent of Fidelity Investments said on Tuesday that operating profit in 2017 rose 54 percent to $5.3 billion, even as customers continued to yank billions of dollars from its actively managed mutual funds.

A sign marks a Fidelity Investments office in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

Assets under management rose 15 percent to $2.45 trillion, said FMR LLC, the privately held parent of Fidelity, lagging the 22 percent gains at rivals BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) and T. Rowe Price Group Inc (TROW.O). Fidelity said it was hurt by $47 billion in net withdrawals from its stable of actively managed stock funds.

FMR said revenue rose 13.7 percent to $18.2 billion for 2017.

“While active equity mutual fund flows remained under pressure across the financial services industry, Fidelity continued to grow its non–mutual fund, actively managed assets, which have increased from $18 billion at the end of 2009 to $124 billion at the end of 2017,” according to the company’s annual report.

Despite the outflows, Fidelity funds outperformed most of their peers. In aggregate, Fidelity said its mutual funds beat 78 percent, 77 percent and 76 percent of their peers for the trailing one-, three-, and five-year periods, respectively.

Fidelity Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Abigail Johnson, a rare female leader in the financial services industry at the family-controlled business, told staff in October the company had no tolerance for any type of harassment after the dismissal of a well-known manager.

Johnson made no mention of the matter in her letter to investors in the report, instead emphasizing how the company is adapting to new competition.

Fidelity is best known for its stock-picking mutual funds like Contrafund (FCNTX.O) and Magellan (FMAGX.O). But it has lost ground to cheaper, passively managed funds offered by BlackRock and Vanguard Group as retail clients focused on cutting expenses in recent years.

In response, Fidelity has worked to grow its business running money outside of traditional mutual funds, like collective investment trusts, separately managed accounts and exchange-traded funds. Assets in such vehicles stood at $124 billion at the end of 2017, the company said, up from $18 billion at the end of 2009.

The new money helped offset the active-fund outflows, Fidelity said, and “demonstrates that customers still see value in active management, but many are looking for exposure to different types of investment vehicles.”

Assets under administration rose 19 percent to $6.8 trillion at the end of 2017, Fidelity said.

Reporting by Ross Kerber and Tim McLaughlin in Boston; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Jeffrey Benkoe

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