Business

Pimco hires Man's Manny Roman as new chief executive

Manny Roman Image copyright Man Group
Image caption Manny Roman was a banker before he defected to hedge funds

When one of the pillars of the American money markets goes looking for a chief executive to rescue it from a tight spot, you might think a French-born and educated fixture of the racy Mayfair hedge fund scene would be last on its list.

But that's exactly where Pimco, a giant West Coast investment firm that has nearly $2 trillion (£1.5 trillion) under management, has ended up.

It has appointed Manny (Emmanuel) Roman, 52, as its new chief executive after a period of turbulence that saw the company lose about one-quarter of its assets as investors took to their heels.

They were frightened off by a power struggle. Bill Gross, a legendary investor that founded Pimco, fell out with his colleagues, and is now suing the company.

The row over his exit eventually led to another big name Mohamed El-Erian standing down as chief executive, to be replaced by Doug Hodge. Roman will succeed Hodge on 1 November.

Investor confidence

While at first Roman looks an odd choice - he worked at Goldman Sachs before coming one of the first wave of bankers to defect to the ranks of hedge funds, becoming a star name at GLG in London and eventually chief executive of its eventual owner, Man Group - he has two things on his CV that would have drawn in the Pimco board.

First, he has been a trader, and is adept at managing the egos that big investment firms have to nurture - and fire - when they have outlived their usefulness.

Second, he has proven he can revive struggling investment companies.

When he took over at Man, it was suffering much the same investor flight malaise that now ails Pimco. That was to do with the flagging performance of a key Man "black box" fund. Roman saw the company through the crisis and restored it to health.

Pimco's board will hope he can do the same on the other side of the Atlantic. As well restoring investor confidence, Roman faces one big trading call.

Pimco's staple diet is government bonds, the IOUs issued to fund state spending programmes. The prices of these instruments are now hitting record highs as investors all over the world look for safe havens.

Roman's big call will be whether to continue to devote Pimco's energy to a market that is showing extraordinary, never-before-seen negative yields, or bring some of his hedge-fund magic to bear and find a new outlet for Pimco's reserves.

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