Within the first minute of meeting Mohamed El-Erian, you understand why his company, PIMCO, and the man, is so successful. His charm immediately put our staff at ease, going so far as to joke with our German-born photographer about the pretzels in Munich and proffering a signed copy of his book. We imagine he employs this tactic in everything from meetings before the board to his personal rapport with Michelle Obama.
PIMCO’s staff efficiently briefed us on the idiosyncrasies of its CEO beforehand, helping to maximize the time he was able to give. We had the feeling this efficiency runs through the entire company, another reason for its success. Lest you think we were being “handled” (the thought did cross our mind), light security during our preparations let us come and go—and wander—as we pleased.
A cursory Google search immediately explains why El-Erian is so busy. In addition to his own book, he regularly writes for the Huffington Post and the Financial Times, provides commentary for other news outlets, does television appearances, speaking engagements, consultations with politicians and everything else that comes from increasingly sharing a role as the “face” of the company with founder Bill Gross. He is currently a board member of the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Cambridge in America.
Oh, and did we mention he also runs the world’s largest bond shop?
In just the past two months, he’s made headlines for his comments about QE3 (he said it’s likely), his call for no more IMF aid to Europe, his take on the unemployment figures (they’re good and getting better) and his defense of Clint Eastwood over the Super Bowl ad controversy. He even managed to include his beloved New York Jets (no one’s perfect) in an analogy on the Greek debt crisis.
The New York-born El-Erian lived in Egypt as a child. He holds a master’s degree and doctorate in economics from Oxford University and received his undergraduate degree from Cambridge University. He first joined PIMCO in 1999 and was a senior member of PIMCO’s portfolio management and investment strategy group. He left for two years to serve as president and CEO of Harvard Management Company, the entity that manages Harvard’s endowment and related accounts, at a time when the endowment was arguably at its highest point.
Before coming to PIMCO, El-Erian was a managing director at Salomon Smith Barney/Citigroup in London, and before that he spent 15 years at the International Monetary Fund in Washington.