While at the top of world finance, Mohamed El-Erian juggled £1.2trn of investments and wrestled with the knottiest economic problems. But it has now emerged his greatest dilemma arose from asking his daughter to brush her teeth.
When the Oxbridge-educated economist stepped down last year as the chief executive of the PIMCO investment fund, one of the largest on the planet, rumour was rife that he had fallen out with its founder Bill Gross.
But Mr El-Erian yesterday revealed one main reason for leaving his high-pressured post was a mundane conversation with his then 10-year-old daughter about brushing her teeth which led to her writing him a note listing the 22 important events in her life he had missed due to work.
In a moment of domestic truth which will sending a shiver down the spines of working parents the world over, the document presented to the financier included missing the child’s first day at school, her first football match and a Halloween parade.
Mr El-Erian, whose earnings at PIMCO reportedly reached as much as $100m a year, said the incident showed him instantly that he had allowed his relationship with his daughter to suffer at the expense of his globetrotting job.
In an interview with Worth magazine, he said: “About a year ago, I asked my daughter several times to do something - brush her teeth I think it was - with no success. I reminded her that it was not so long ago that she would have immediately responded.
“She asked me to wait a minute, went to her room and came back with a piece of paper. It was a list that she had compiled of her important events and activities that I had missed due to work commitments. Talk about a wake-up call.”
He continued: “I felt awful and got defensive: I had a good excuse for each missed event! Travel, important meetings, an urgent phone call, sudden to-dos. But it dawned on me that I was missing an infinitely more important point.
“As much as I could rationalise it… my work-life balance had gotten way out of whack, and the imbalance was hurting my very special relationship with my daughter. I was not making nearly enough time for her.”
The 56-year-old investment guru, who regularly features in lists of the world’s most powerful or influential financiers, last year swapped his role at PIMCO’s California headquarters for a “portfolio of part-time jobs”, including a role as chief advisor to the fund’s German parent, Allianz.
Mr El-Erian said he realised the trope of departing executives and politicians that they wanted to spend more time with their families was a cliche but added he had realised his time was better spent being a good father than a good investor.
In a separate interview with Reuters, he declined to comment on his relationship with 70-year-old Mr Gross, saying only that the so-called “Bond King” was “brilliant”.
In the meantime, Mr El-Erian said he was enjoying his time with his daughter, preparing her breakfast, driving her to and from school as well as planning a holiday together.
He said: “I’m the first to recognise that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to structure my life in this way. Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury. But, hopefully, as companies give more attention to the importance of work-life balance, more and more people will be in a better position to act holistically on what’s important to them.”