Gates Foundation Appoints Social Finance Chief

A senior figure in impact-led investment is to join one of the world's largest healthcare foundations.

The former leader of a UK government-backed social enterprise foundation has joined the Gates Foundation’s London office to increase its socially-responsible investments.

Nick O’Donohoe, who announced he would leave Big Society Capital by the end of the year in May, will join the US-based foundation in January as senior adviser for blended finance.

“Operating out of London, Nick will work with deal teams and drive forward the foundation’s work in this area, including through engagement with co-investors and partners.”—Gates Foundation“London is a thriving centre of innovative investment solutions for development and we are delighted that such a senior private sector figure with his stellar background in banking in the City has agreed to join the foundation,” said Joe Cerrell, managing director for global policy and advocacy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Innovative finance models offer huge opportunities to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people and Nick’s experience and achievements leading the world’s first social investment institution of its kind will help deepen our engagement in this area.”

The foundation, which is estimated to have around $70 billion assets, has created this new role at what it called “a critical juncture for international development and the future of innovative social investment.”

Following the success of the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations, the organisation set a new series of ambitious targets to eliminate poverty and protect the planet from the effects of climate change, a note from the foundation said.

“To achieve these goals, governments agreed… that, while development aid will remain vital, domestic resource mobilisation and new and innovative financing mechanisms from both the public and private sectors would be critical,” the foundation said. “New ways of crowding in private capital will be a crucial part of the future of development finance.”

In his new role, O’Donohoe, who has a long career in both banking and social and impact finance, will originate, execute, and manage transactions involving innovative financial mechanisms (particularly within the returnable capital/blended finance space) and program-related investments (PRIs).

PRIs are used to further the foundation’s programmatic and charitable objectives by offering financial tools such as low-interest loans, guarantees, and equity investments to stimulate private-sector driven innovation, encourage market-driven efficiencies, and attract external capital to priority initiatives.

“Operating out of London, Nick will work with deal teams and drive forward the foundation’s work in this area, including through engagement with co-investors and partners,” the foundation said.

“The Gates Foundation has been at the centre of innovative financing for development for more than a decade,” said O’Donohoe. “It is uniquely positioned to continue to develop innovative ways of investing philanthropic capital and I look forward to doing what I can to help catalyse investment to improve health and economic opportunities for the world’s poorest.”

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