Fidelity's deal with BlackRock is limited in more ways than one. Customers are limited to 25 commission-free funds, while Fidelity hesitates to take the most important step: the introduction of proprietary funds.
The ETF industry is still in its adolescence, and there is plenty of room for a firm like Fidelity to make an impact. Schwab introduced commission-free funds for customers in 2009, and Pimco recently entered the ETF marketplace on the fixed-income side.
The most successful ETF issuers are able to step back and see where they can make an impact. Fidelity's reputation, loyal customer base, and dominance in the 401(k) space are a force to be reckoned with.
ETF investors, many of whom abandoned the sea of mutual funds for more transparent waters, have been slow to accept the type of actively managed ETFs that Rodger Lawson hinted at on his way out. Fidelity would be best served developing its own line of sector funds, based on its line of "Fidelity Select" mutual funds.Fidelity may be late in joining the ETF game, but the firm could easily become a major player. Fidelity must move quickly and efficiently, coloring offerings with the firm's identity.