White House names intended nominee for top job at new US DFI

Adam Boehler, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. Image by: C-Span

WASHINGTON — The White House plans to nominate Adam Boehler to be the CEO of the new U.S. Development Finance Corporation, a move that would put an entrepreneur and development outsider at the helm of the country’s new development finance agency.

Boehler, who is a relative unknown to the development community, has been serving as the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation and is a senior adviser to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. He is also reportedly close with White House adviser Jared Kushner, who was his roommate for a summer in college.

Boehler is the founder and former CEO of Landmark Health, an in-home medical care company, was an operating partner at Francisco Partners, a global investment firm, and also worked at a private equity firm and a venture capital firm in the past. He will now need to undergo a Senate confirmation process.

For some in the development community, the announcement was a bit of a disappointment, because there had been hope that David Bohigian, the acting Overseas Private Investment Corporation CEO, might get the nod, several development experts told Devex. Bohigian is widely respected by the development community and has been spearheading the transition and creation of the new DFC.

However, Rob Mosbacher, former OPIC CEO, told Devex he had met Boehler, who struck him as “business savvy and creative/innovative,” adding that “those are all good skills to bring to the job.”

Boehler seemed very interested in the position and is an entrepreneur, so the opportunity to work with an agency encouraging entrepreneurship around the world is appealing to him, Mosbacher said.

“My impression is that he’ll be a quick learner and he struck me as a good listener,” he said. “Hopefully what he doesn’t know he’ll learn quickly.”

While the Senate confirmation process has become challenging in this political climate, Mosbacher said he hoped it could be completed quickly, saying he saw no red flags that might cause a delay.

Asked what key skills are important for the incoming CEO, Mosbacher said he’d look for someone with an open mind, particularly when it comes to cooperation and collaboration with USAID, and with other development finance institutions, and multilateral development banks.

While every CEO wants to be able to bring in some of their own people, Mosbacher said he had the sense that Boehler had heard about the quality and capacity of the senior team and would do his best to keep many of them on board. Mosbacher added that Boehler would be lucky to have Bohigian’s help if he should stay on. Bohigian would have to be renominated and go through another confirmation process to retain the number two job at the agency.

“OPIC has a really impressive committed staff that has just a wealth of knowledge,” said a development policy expert who asked for anonymity to speak freely. “It’s really important for the head of new DFC to retain that expertise and those people moving forward especially as it looks to scale up and take on these new authorities.”

And the development community will be watching closely if Boehler is confirmed, to see what happens with leadership and staffing and whether new staffers without a development background are brought in, the expert said.

While Boehler isn’t known to the development community, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the expert said, noting that his political connections could be useful as they were for OPIC’s last CEO Ray Washburne.

Boehler is friends with Walter Isaacson, the former president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. In an interview with the New Orleans Advocate, Isaacson described Boehler as an “open-minded and joyful entrepreneur who knows how to build businesses but also knows how to create public-private partnerships.”

Issacson told the newspaper he thought Boehler would be a good fit for the job. “What it takes is somebody who can rise above politics and understand the importance of business in being able to create a more stable society,” he told the Advocate.

About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is a Senior Reporter at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.