Meet Sir Damon Buffini, Schroders’ newest director

The Permira founder has joined the global asset manager as it bolsters its private assets business.

Credit: Thomas SG Farnetti/Wellcome

Some would consider Sir Damon Buffini private equity aristocracy.

On 29 January global asset manager Schroders appointed the ex-founding partner of Permira Advisers as a non-executive director on its board and nomination committee, according to a statement.

Buffini is an old hand at the London-headquartered firm, having started his career with Schroder Ventures in 1988 before it became Permira.

His appointment is timely. He joins less than a year after Schroders bolstered its private equity assets under management by $7 billion with the acquisition of Swiss private equity firm Adveq.

Buffini is no stranger to growth; in his time as managing partner, chairman and senior advisor at Permira, its assets under management increased from €1.9 billion to more than €20 billion. Private assets is one of Schroders’ “growth priorities”, chairman Michael Dobson noted in the statement.

Buffini’s influence is wider than his former firm; he also serves as governor of UK endowment The Wellcome Trust, which has a £23.2 billion ($32.8 billion; €26.4 billion) investment portfolio. In November 2016 he was selected by prime minister Theresa May to chair a panel of experts supporting a review into the lack of long-term investment in British businesses.

“This is an interesting time for the asset management industry,” he said in a statement on 29 January. “[There are] some challenges but also many opportunities.”

Before the financial crisis, Buffini came under fire from trade unionists after job cuts at British motoring association AA, which Permira acquired alongside CVC Capital Partners in 2004 through a £1.75 billion (€2.1 billion; $2.2 billion) transaction.

In 2006 the GMB union appeared outside the church Buffini attended in south London with a camel, referencing the biblical passage in which Jesus says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Buffini was also questioned, alongside Philip Yea, a former 3i chief executive, and other private equity bosses, by a Treasury select committee in 2007 as part of an investigation into the activities of the private equity industry.

Buffini later defended the industry against accusations that it destroys jobs on BBC Radio 4’s flagship breakfast news show.

“We’re in the business of creating strong long-term competitive businesses…that’s in the best interests of all stakeholders, especially employees,” he said. “In a global economy, there’s no job security unless a business is profitable and sustainable – and that’s what we’re doing.”

This could mean taking difficult decisions, he added. “Sometimes you have to take one step backwards to take two steps forwards.”