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What's a Pyramis? Fidelity poached a top Columbia funds exec so you won't ask that question

Mike Jones oversaw $326 billion at the Ameriprise Financial subsidiary

Friday, February 17, 2012 – 4:21 PM by Lisa Shidler
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Kevin Uebelein will assume the new role of global head of solutions delivery for Pyramis

Fidelity Investments just hired Mike Jones, formerly president of Columbia Management, to serve as president and chief executive of its institutional unit, Pyramis Global Advisors.

Jones has more than 30 years’ institutional investment management experience. As president of U.S. asset management at Columbia, he oversaw more than $326 billion in assets for the subsidiary of Ameriprise Financial Inc. Ted Truscott, CEO of U.S. asset management, continues to lead Columbia Management.

“We appreciate Mike’s many years of service to the organization and wish him well,” says Columbia spokesman Ryan Lund. “We have a strong, experienced leadership team in place that will share his responsibilities.”

Jones will succeed Kevin Uebelein, who is taking on a new role as global head of solutions delivery for Pyramis. His new role will focus on delivery of complex, multistrategy investment solutions.

Jones will report to Ronald P. O’Hanley, president of Fidelity Asset Management. Pyramis manages more than $165 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2011.

“Mike brings tremendous institutional asset management experience in both investment and non-investment activities, and will ensure that Pyramis clients are receiving the full breadth of our world-class capabilities, while ensuring that we are delivering the highest levels of service and thought leadership,” O’Hanley said in a statement. “He is a proven executive leader with an exceptional track record in understanding the needs of institutional investors and aligning a business to successfully meet those needs.”

Brilliant move

“As a strategic hire and strategy, it is brilliant,” says Cecile V. Munoz, president of U.S. Executive Search Inc. in Los Angeles. “Mike has a wonderful background with a well-respected firm.”

She points out that Fidelity competes with Columbia and bringing Jones over will give Fidelity some added intellectual muscle to help the Boston firm compete in this arena.

“The other great expertise he brings to Fidelity is knowing how to effectively run a brand within a brand,” Munoz adds. “How do you create stellar value of a brand as a standalone within a giant like Fidelity: how you do you bring the sun light when the Fidelity tree casts such a large shadow?

Pyramis is used by RIAs

Pyramis delivers asset management products and services for institutional investors, says Fidelity spokesman Adam Banker. He says RIAs often use Pyramis products in subadvised accounts that may be offered at locations such as insurance companies and family offices.

“Mike Jones brings a tremendous track record of successful leadership in institutional asset management that will allow Pyramis to really accelerate its global growth plan,” Banker says.

New role

In his new role, Uebelein, who has been Pyramis’ president and CEO since 2008, will lead the build-out of a new business drawing on key capabilities from across Fidelity to serve institutional investors.

This includes working closely with plan sponsors and consultants in the area of defined-benefit de-risking. Plan de-risking is a critical and rapidly growing area of the institutional marketplace, requiring the development of custom investment solutions.

“Volatile markets, changing demographics, mediocre equity returns, and persistently low interest rates have created extraordinary challenges for defined-benefit plans, and other similar plans, that require deep skills and capabilities,” O’Hanley says.

Uebelein helped build Pyramis into an organization that today serves more than 600 clients worldwide.

Fiduciary challenges to overcome

Banker adds that many plan sponsors and consultants are looking for sophisticated investment approaches to help diminish risk in defined-benefit plans in a manner than allows sponsors to meet their fiduciary responsibilities while achieving their business goals.

“These are not easy solutions to develop, and having someone with Kevin’s capabilities focused on these challenges, in partnership with our workplace Investing business, and bringing the full weight of Pyramis’ and Fidelity’s capabilities to bear will be of tremendous value to our clients,” Banker says. “We created this new role because many of the investment needs of some of our largest clients require that we look at how best to assemble our capabilities from across the Fidelity complex to meet a complex, multistrategy client need.”

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