News of Mohamed El-Erian’s announced departure from PIMCO yesterday sent shockwaves through that organization and was a surprise to many in the markets. The question it brings for PIMCO’s co-founder Bill Gross is: Can PIMCO thrive without him?

The answer will come soon enough. It’s not been a particularly great period for PIMCO, which saw investors pull $41 billion from the PIMCO Total Return fund last year, according to Bloomberg’s story today. Gross pointed out that recent years have not been kind to bond funds.

The real question for PIMCO now is just how deep its bench is. In the National Football League, the loss of a star player usually results in the coach saying “It’s the next man up.” In sports, the next man up gets that label because he wasn’t as good as the guy before him. But that is where the sports analogy ends.

The investment world has loads of talented individuals and PIMCO’s next men up are Douglas Hodge, who will become the new CEO, while money manager Andrew Balls and Daniel Ivascyn will become deputy investment chiefs. PIMCO also is not a one-man, even a two-man team. They’ve lost one of the public faces of the firm and a talented contributor but it’s unlikely they will crumble without him.

A Wall Street Journal article pointed out that Ivascyn, along with colleague Alfred Murata were awarded Morningstar’s fixed-income manager of the year honors. Others top managers were also mentioned such as Mark Kiesel global head of its corporate-bond portfolio management group and a senior member of the investment-strategy and portfolio-management group and Brad Kinkelaar, executive vice president and global-equity portfolio manager, head of Pimco’s dividend team and a rotating member of its investment committee.

Organizations are often best served when its talent continues to rise to the top. Gross is now near 70-years-old. So it will be interesting to see if PIMCO’s next men up do indeed have the talent and vision it takes to keep existing customers satisfied and new investors coming in.

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