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UK’s Big Society Capital names new CEO as incumbent heads to Gates Foundation SDG post

Incoming CEO, Prior, has held a number of top charity roles

Big Society Capital, the UK’s £351m (€497.4m) social investment wholesaler, has announced a new CEO to replace Nick O’Donohoe, who will step down at the end of 2015 to take up a newly-created role as Senior Adviser, Blended Finance for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Cliff Prior, current CEO of UnLtd, an organisation that helps UK social enterprises become investment-ready, will join Big Society Capital as CEO in March 2016. Big Society Capital, which is funded by UK dormant bank accounts and equity bank finance, aims to encourage investment into funds and projects delivering a social and financial return. Since its launch, Big Society Capital has invested £246m in social investment projects alongside other investors, including social impact bond funds and ‘market-making’ entities like the Social Stock Exchange.
Prior, the new incoming CEO, has held a number of charity CEO roles, most recently at Rethink a charity for people affected by severe mental health. He has also made a significant contribution to the development of social investment, both as Chair of the Mission Alignment Group for the Social Impact Investment Taskforce established under the UK’s presidency of the G8, and as a member of Big Society Capital’s Advisory Board.
Prior said: “Nick and the team have done a truly excellent job in building Big Society Capital, developing the intermediary sector, finding the social themes where investment can add value and getting funds committed for social benefit. It’s a real privilege to have the opportunity to use that capacity to accelerate the next stage in the journey.”Prior takes over from Big Society Capital’s Founding CEO Nick O’Donohoe who announced he would be stepping down earlier this year. O’Donohoe helped establish Big Society Capital with venture capital pioneer Sir Ronald Cohen before becoming its CEO. O’Donohoe has also held senior roles at JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. His next role will be at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in a new position created to reflect the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an update to 2000’s Millennium Development Goals set by the UN to tackle poverty and climate change. In a statement the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said governments had agreed that while aid will be vital to reaching the new SDGs, “new and innovative financing mechanisms from public and private sector will be critical”. Operating from London, O’Donohoe will advise the Foundation’s deal team on blended finance – the deliberate use of public funds to attract private capital to impact investment, and program-related investment. He will also engage with co-investors and partners. He will start his role in January 2016. Joe Cerrell, Managing Director, Global Policy and Advocacy, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said “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.” O’Donohoe added: “The Gates Foundation has been at the centre of innovative financing for development for more than a decade, helping to establish two of the most successful examples – the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.” Keith Starling, Head of Portfolio Management, will act as interim CEO at Big Society Capital from January 2016 until Prior assumes the post in March 2016. Big Society Capital is chaired by Harvey McGrath, former chairman of Man Group and Prudential.