Fidelity to Leave Hill, Holliday

Arnold is seen as the likely successor to Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos as lead agency for Fidelity Investments, which Friday parted with Hill, Holliday.

Hill, Holliday plans to cut at least 20 people over the next several months as it concludes its relationship with Fidelity, according to agency representative Eric Fenhrstrom.

Boston-based Fidelity, which ranks as the world’s No.1 mutual funds provider, will likely move the lion’s share of its account to Arnold, sources said. Fidelity representative Anne Crowley said “Arnold is under consideration” for the business but indicated other shops might also be evaluated. The client spends about $120 million annually on ads.

Arnold, which as the year began added Fidelity Web projects, has already presented broad brand-building concepts to client officials that could serve as the basis for the company’s next big image campaign, which is set to break in early fall, sources said.

Most recently, the Boston agency made a presentation to Fidelity on ways the shop’s “brand essence” philosophy could be used to promote the client’s Powerstreet online brokerage and to support Fidelity’s overall brand image, sources said [Adweek, April 9].

Gotham, New York, which like Hill, Holliday is a unit of the Interpublic Group of Cos., handles Powerstreet. Gotham officials on Friday did not return calls.

“We’ve been working with [Fidelity] for six months on Web and branding projects. We continue to do work with them,” said Arnold spokeswoman Rebecca Luber late Friday, adding that she is unaware of an imminent change in the relationship. Arnold chairman Ed Eskandarian did not return calls.

Hill, Holliday president Mike Sheehan attributed the split to a potential client conflict with another large account, FleetBoston Financial, especially in light of Fleet’s recent agreement to acquire assets management group Liberty Financial.

Sheehan placed Fidelity as the shop’s sixth largest account, representing 5 percent of total agency revenue. FleetBoston ranks as Hill, Holliday’s largest single piece of business. Fleet and Fidelity already compete in some areas, and Fleet’s pending acquisition of Liberty made a direct conflict between the two clients, and a parting with Hill, Holliday, inevitable, Sheehan said.

Hill, Holliday’s relationship with Fidelity has long been rocky, with potential conflicts and disagreements on strategic direction.