I struggle to pin down what make Damian Stancombe such an engaging character. He has become a pensions celebrity without ever pinning his colours to any particular mast and it’s hard to work out what exactly he does. In his chat with Nico and Darren he says that after leaving one job it was remarked that while “nobody knew what he did, his company was the worse for his leaving”.
His most recent achievement was to get a large group of pension people up to Southport to walk through the dunes and across beaches while talking about pensions.
In this podcast Damian talks a lot about his personality and how he defined himself and in the end I was no nearer working him out than at the beginning.
He really should have done the pod as desert island discs as I find him most accessible when he talks of his musical tastes
As for pensions , he tells us that he has been in DC all his life. He tells us that VFM is a construct to make consultants a lot of money, but – as a consultant – he doesn’t seem to care much one way or another about the big ideas floating about. He thinks that we have both too many and too few ideas.
It is this vague charm that seems to have been the making of the man, making him – as he reminds us several times – a Barnett Waddingham partner.
The conversation meanders for 65 minutes. It flits in a dilettantish way around topical pension issues and my notes are a record of its skittishness. They reference “the need for a reset”, a desire for “open authentic leadership” (Damian went to Windsor Castle as part of a leadership initiative). There is talk of the PPF requiring the Treasury to put “pensions on its balance sheet” and references to a “multi-facetted problem”.
All of which carries on in a very good humoured way with much joshing but without getting anywhere, I had hope to hear more, to have something that helped me understand Damian’s genius. What I got was affability and whimsicality and “psychic outcomes” (Don Ezra’s phrase which Nico employs to help us understand “feel good”.
If there is a point to Damian’s visit to the pod, it seems to be about his preparation for a day that is fast approaching when Damian retires from work and starts getting paid from his pension pot and not by Barnett Waddingham.
But I suspect that Damian will not turn himself off, there is too much life in him and an eagerness to express himself through social media.
Next week we have John Greenwood and perhaps the chance to debate pensions again.