Vanguard’s Trillion-Dollar Man Leads a Fixed-Income Revolution

When March’s bank failures ignited a historic bond rally, few, if any, made more money than Josh Barrickman.

His army of funds gained roughly $26 billion, the equivalent of more than $1 billion in paper profits every single trading session.

Yet Barrickman didn’t predict Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse, or Credit Suisse’s tortured final days. He doesn’t even have a view (at least that he’s willing to share) on what the Federal Reserve will do next.

He runs Vanguard Group Inc.’s $1 trillion bond indexing business for the Americas, a class of investing that — to the outside world, at least — is as vanilla as it gets.

There’s nothing vanilla about the money he’s pulling in, though. The soft-spoken 47-year-old’s funds lured $31 billion last year, even as active managers posted unprecedented outflows amid the worst year for bonds since at least 1977. In fact, he now controls nearly as much US debt — including Treasuries, agency, and corporate bonds — as China, America’s second-largest foreign creditor.