Shared Characteristics
The reason he failed to deliver better returns at Janus is much simpler: “I made some bad trades.”

Gross learned he has Asperger’s only after reading Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short.” In one passage, Lewis recounts the unusual characteristics of one of the book’s heroes, Michael Burry, a doctor-turned-investor who also was diagnosed with the condition as an adult. Gross recognized that he shared many of the same qualities and had similarly obsessive habits. He went to a psychiatrist, who confirmed the condition.

“It’s allowed me to stay at 30,000 feet as opposed to being on the ground,” Gross said, discussing why he thinks Asperger’s probably made him a better investor, if also infamously short-tempered. “That’s not necessarily good in terms of one-to-one. People think you’re angry or an a-hole or whatever. But it helps you to focus on the longer-term things without getting mixed up in the details.”

Secret Diagnosis
That’s the Bill Gross his former colleagues at Pimco will recognize. For years, they found him aloof, volatile and seemingly lacking in empathy. Symptoms of the disorder range widely, according to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and can include degrees of difficulty with social interactions and communication, as well as deeply focused thinking and a preference for consistency and order.

Gross kept his diagnosis a secret, sharing it with close friends, and dropping only one hint publicly. In a February 2016 blog post on investing, Gross speculated as to why he wasn’t included as a character in Lewis’s best-seller: “Perhaps I wasn’t addled enough like co-star hedge fund manager Michael Burry, who I share affection for and an affliction (and it’s not a glass eye).”

While Gross says he’s “sort of proud” of his condition because “it explains a lot about me,” he no longer believes it’s as much of an advantage professionally.

“The markets are substantially different today than they were when I started, more day-to-day, more robotic, more machine-dominated,” he said. “So it’s not a negative, but it’s probably not as much of a positive.”

Deficit Critic
As a bond-market investor, Gross had to have views on monetary and fiscal policy, and he shared them publicly in the investment outlooks he posted regularly on Pimco’s website and, later, on Janus’s. One consistent thread was a critique of budget deficits, zero percent interest rates and quantitative easing. He wrongly predicted they’d spark runaway inflation and hurt returns on stocks and bonds.

Now, Gross appears to be revisiting those views. Although he still believes low-rate policies destroy the risk-reward relationship in a market economy, he recognizes that the government and the Federal Reserve can work together to combat deflationary forces like America’s aging population and Amazon.com.

“Why can’t the government have a $2 trillion deficit if the Fed is simply going to buy it, like they do in Japan?” Gross said. “Well, Jim Grant would say, ‘Mmm, it would be inflationary.’ But it hasn’t been. So, yeah, I would say Trump or the next president, whoever he or she is, could go to $2 trillion, as long as the Fed was willing to accommodate.”