This week, for our special 500th episode of Masters in Business, I speak with Jenny Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Franklin Templeton. Johnson joined the firm in 1988 and held leadership roles in all its major divisions before becoming CEO in February 2020. She also led the historic acquisition of Legg Mason in 2020, and Putnam in 2023, with the organization now managing more than $1.5 trillion globally. Among many other accolades, she has been named to Barron’s list of the 100 most influential women in US finance for three consecutive years, most recently in 2022.
She began at Drexel Burnam, getting her feet wet learning operations as a very junior employee. When she returned to Franklin Templeton, she rotated through various divisions, including investment management, distribution, technology, operations, and high-net-worth.
There is a history of acquisitions at FT, going back to the October 1992 acquisition of Templeton, Galbraith & Hansberger for $913 million. (This led to the firm’s current name from its prior “Franklin”). Bringing on mutual fund pioneers Sir John Templeton + John Galbraith led to a critical mass at the firm.
Johnson has since led multiple acquisitions, including the 2020 all-cash deal for Legg Mason valued at $4.5 billion; Last year, FT purchased O’Shaugnessy Asset management, including its breakout direct indexing product Canvas, for an undisclosed amount; this year, FT purchased Putnam for $925 million. Each of the acquisitions filled in a hole in Franklin’s suite of products. The firm continues to expand, looking abroad for more growth, including India and the Middle East.
We also discussed active management versus indexing:
“If you are an active manager, your job is to have a diversified portfolio and think about risk-adjusted returns. When you have a momentum market [like now] and you have five companies that take their 25% of the index, a professional manager gets nervous by that type of concentration, say the S&P 500. There’s not enough discussion about how the market risk of the index changes depending on [a few stocks]. The day Tesla was added to the S&P 500, it became a much riskier investment based on volatility and concentration. In those types of markets, it’s hard for an active manager.”
You can stream and download our full conversation, including any podcast extras, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, YouTube, and Bloomberg. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.
Be sure to check out our Masters in Business next week with Tom Wagner, Co-Portfolio Manager at Knighthead Capital. The $10 billion event-driven is a deep value-focused investor specializing in companies that need financial and operational restructuring. He is a co-investor with football legend Tom Brady in several sports assets, including a Pickleball team, Birmingham City FC in the English Football League, and an endurance auto racing team. Wagner began his career doing hedge fund accounting at Ernst & Young.
Jenny Johnson Current Reading
Kissinger: A Biography by Walter Isaacson
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett