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“The most fascinating thing about the investment business today is that people will agree on the micro facts, but they hesitate to add it all up,” Mohamed El-Erian recently told a rapt audience of sovereign wealth fund officials. As CEO and co-CIO of $1 trillion asset management giant Pacific Investment Management Co., El-Erian urged the group to embrace new ways of approaching the markets. “Once people acknowledge that the facts are changing, then they have to be open to the notion that when it is all brought together, the world is going to look different,” the former International Monetary Fund deputy director and Harvard University endowment chief explained. “When markets are faced with all these new facts, it takes time and takes overwhelming evidence. That is why there is this amazing volatility in markets, not just weekly, but daily—because people are flip-flopping between old normal, new normal. The inclination as a market is to go back to the old normal, but the reality is leading people to the new normal.”

El-Erian wasn’t speaking at the World Bank in Washington. Nor was he at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He was in Juneau, Alaska — population 31,000 — on an unseasonably warm morning in late May, delivering a two-hour presentation on the state of the world economy to officials of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., which oversees the Alaska Permanent Fund, a $33.3 billion sovereign wealth fund set up more than 30 years ago to ensure the financial security of future generations of Alaskans against the time when the oil fields on the North Slope run dry. The APFC hired Pimco early this year to advise it on protecting those assets from the market’s unforgiving ways, but El-Erian wasn’t the only big-name money manager traveling to Alaska. Robert Prince, co-CIO of Bridgewater Associates, also was on hand to give his own three-hour presentation. Last year, APFC chief investment officer Jeffrey Scott persuaded the fund’s trustees to hire five of the highest-profile U.S. asset management firms to function as what he dubs “external CIOs,” giving them $500 million each to manage as they see fit, as part of a mandate that includes teaching and consulting. The others are AQR Capital Management, GMO and Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

“I’ve recruited a team,” says Scott, 45. “There’s not one voice anymore. There’s six of us now.”