Dr El-Erian started his career at the International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C. where he spent 15 years before moving to the private sector, first as a managing director at Solomon Smith Barney/Citigroup in London.
He is best-known as the former CEO and Co-CIO of PIMCO (Pacific Investment Management Company). Alongside founder Bill Gross, PIMCO became the world's largest active bond manager with $2 trillion assets under management, driven by strong investment performance that also helped steer bonds into the mainstream for private investors.
Before becoming CEO, El-Erian was head of PIMCO's emerging market portfolio team and earned notoriety by avoiding Argentina's 2001 default that snared many bond investors. With much of the current financial turmoil originating in global credit markets, this experience should provide valuable insight to help investors navigate today's similarly perilous market outlook.
El-Erian steered PIMCO through the financial crisis as CEO before it was acquired by Allianz in 2014. He has since been the German insurer's Chief Economic Advisor, alongside his position as the President of Queens’ College at the University of Cambridge and roles on several boards and advisory committees.
On stepping back from his role at PIMCO, where he started work at 4:30am each morning, El-Erian revealed that he'd made a promise to spend more time with his 10-year-old daughter after she wrote him a note. "It was a list that she had compiled of her important events and activities that I had missed due to work commitments. [It] contained 22 items, from her first day at school and first soccer match of the season to a parent-teacher meeting and a Halloween parade."
Despite a work-life re-balancing, El-Erian continued to serve as Chair of President Obama’s Global Development Council until 2017, a role he began in 2012 and described as "a privilege". A key issue for the council was advising the US government on sustainable economic growth, which he acknowledged when speaking to the Financial Times in 2019 remained elusive:
“The most striking element when you look at the US or Europe is the emergence of anti-establishment movements. There is nothing surprising in this, however, because if you run sophisticated economies at low growth for a long time, and if the benefits of that low growth only go to a very small section of society, then people will get angry."
El-Erian is a prolific author on international economic and finance. He is a columnist for Bloomberg View and a contributing editor at the Financial Times. His 2008 book, When Markets Collide, was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller which won the Financial Times / Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year and was named one of the best business books of all time by the Independent (UK).
Named in Foreign Policy magazine's list of 'Top 100 Global Thinkers' four years in a row, El-Erian's latest book, published in 2016, The Only Game in Town, explored the role of central banks since the financial crisis and the need for politicians to step-up and do more to boost economic growth and avoid distorting financial markets. As he told the Financial Times in the same 2019 interview: “There needs to be a handoff in the US, Japan and Europe from excessive prolonged dependence on experimental central bank policy to a comprehensive policy response from governments. Otherwise, central banks go from being effective to ineffective to counterproductive.”
With the global economy struggling to avoid recession, inequalities growing and markets grappling with the withdrawal of central bank support, today's investment outlook is increasingly blurred. For anyone looking to find value in this uncertainty, El-Erian's appearance at our New Year's conference is very timely.