Stonegate names James Smith CEO after position abruptly left open

Previously served as Stonegate's president and chief operating officer

Stonegate Mortgage president James Smith has also assumed the role of CEO, effective immediately, after the position was abruptly left vacant last September.

Stonegate Founder and former CEO Jim Cutillo announced in August that his last day would be Sept. 10, 2015, serving only as a consultant over the next six months to facilitate his transition.

Richard Kraemer was named interim CEO until the search for a permanent CEO with the requisite leadership and mortgage industry experience was completed. He will continue to serve as chairman of the board of Stonegate.

As Cutillo was transitioning out last year, the lender almost simultaneously announced that Smith had joined the company as president and chief operating officer.

The previous president, Daniel Bettenburg, resigned from the position back in June 2014. At the time, Stonegate said it did not intend to hire a replacement for the president role despite the open position “given the recent executive team additions and its transition to a business unit driven operating model.”

Smith brings more than 25 years of mortgage and consumer finance experience to the role, with an extensive background in building and leading highly successful loan origination, operations and servicing platforms.

Before coming to Stonegate, Smith served as director of U.S. Mortgage Operations for Wipro Limited, a global technology, consulting and business process outsourcing company. Smith has also served in a variety of executive leadership roles including senior vice president with Bank of America, president of Saxon Mortgage and chief operating officer at Origen Financial.

“Jim’s deep experience in the mortgage industry makes him uniquely qualified to lead Stonegate. We expect his strong execution skills and ability to deliver tangible results to enhance shareholder value,” said Kraemer.

FBR Capital Markets & Co viewed Cutillo’s decision to leave the company as a positive when the news was announced and announced it upgraded shares of SGM to outperform from market perform.

“We believe these changes could act as a positive catalyst for shares as the company pursues a permanent CEO to execute its business plan and drive profitability,” FBR said in its report.

After the company’s fourth-quarter investor call, Stongate said it was realigning its distributed retail lending division to what its core was when the lender first started. 

Stonegate said it had already closed 63 locations, with 19 still open and fully supported well into the future.

Smith said on the call, "We remained focused during the quarter on optimizing our retail distributed branch structure to maximize shareholder value. We had 19 locations at the end of December, primarily throughout the Midwest, after closing or selling a significant portion of our branch locations during the third and fourth quarters."

Looking ahead, Steve Landes, Stonegate Mortgage executive vice president, national director of sales and president of NattyMac, said, “Every company has a different strategy. For us, it is to keep this core group because you never want to be out of a channel.”

However, right now, “Stonegate sees the path forward is to grow our TPO channel," he said.

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