Mastercard Foundation Taps John Barker to Oversee New Investment Management Arm

After nearly two decades, the foundation is paring its position in Mastercard stock and diversifying its assets.


Illustration by II

The Mastercard Foundation is launching a massive asset management arm — and it has hired John Barker, the former chief investment officer for Mass General Brigham’s investment office, to run it.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Barker, who spent 11 years as CIO at Mass General, officially joined the Mastercard Foundation Asset Management Corporation this month. He will work at the foundation’s headquarters in Toronto.

Mastercard Foundation Asset Management is the recently launched “in-house, wholly owned,” asset management arm for the Foundation, which was established when the company went public in 2006. It has operated as a separate entity since then. The foundation has been holding only stock of Mastercard for years — a stipulation of its founding documents — so the organization did not have — or need — a team managing its investments.

That is changing, as the Mastercard Foundation looks to harvest gains, de-risk its portfolio, and grow its pool of capital. In June, the foundation, in consultation with Mastercard, sought permission from the Canadian government to begin diversifying its portfolio on January 1, 2024, earlier than the founding documents’ proposed date of May 1, 2027.

At the time, the foundation said it planned to sell down shares of its Mastercard stock over seven years, and that it would still “retain a significant overweight holding of Mastercard in its portfolio.”

In his role, Barker will oversee the diversification of the portfolio and will hire its investment team.

Barker has ample experience in this arena. He led Mass General Brigham’s 23-person staff in managing $24 billion in assets. When he joined the healthcare system in 2012, it managed some $10 billion. He significantly increased the portfolio’s exposure to private assets, upping the allocation from 7 percent to 35 percent.

Barker is a Harvard Management Company alum. Prior to joining the healthcare system, he spent three years as a managing director for the storied endowment. Other prior roles included serving as an alternatives assets manager at Wellesley College, as a principal at Paratus Capital, a private equity firm, and as a consultant.

The Mastercard Foundation has committed $6.7 billion to financial inclusion and education efforts since its launch, with a focus primarily in Africa, according to its website.

The nonprofit has a unique history among foundations. When the company went public, it donated 135 million newly authorized shares of Class A common stock to the foundation, which was estimated by academics to be worth $600 million. As of its last annual filing, in February 2023, the Mastercard Foundation had about 10.7 percent of general voting power at the company.

Barker, the Mastercard Foundation, and Mastercard could not immediately be reached for comment.