Earlier this week, Nationstar Mortgage surprised the market a bit when it announced that its chief financial officer, Robert Stiles, is departing the company.
But according to a report from Nomura, not only does there not appear to be a hidden story behind Stiles' departure, the company likely won’t suffer at all with Amar Patel serving as interim CFO.
In the report, Nomura analysts Brock Vandervliet and Vilas Abraham, say that Nationstar CEO Jay Bray was calling around to investors after the announcement, an “encouraging” sign.
They also say that Stiles’ departure was simply a personal matter and not a reflection of company performance.
“After speaking with the company following this announcement, we do not believe this departure was linked to financial performance this quarter, but rather was a personal matter that had been in process for a longer period of time,” the Nomura analysts said in the report. “We are encouraged that management is engaging with investors about this news which should reduce further uncertainty.”
As Nomura reports, Stiles served as Nationstar’s executive vice president and CFO of Nationstar since 2014, replacing David Hisey, who was CFO from February 2012 through April 2014.
The Nomura report states that Stiles’ decision to leave had been in the works for some time.
“We understand Stiles is leaving to pursue a completely different opportunity and one in process for a number of months,” Nomura writes.
“Based on management commentary including CEO Jay Bray, there appears to be no regulatory or financial issue behind the curtain here, this was a personal matter,” the report continues.
“Nationstar also recently settled a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau matter with a modest $1.75 million fine, suggesting no major issues from that quarter,” the analysts continued. “The fact that the CEO was calling around to investors following this announcement is also encouraging.”
The Nomura analysts also suggest that the company will be in good hands with Patel, who previously worked for Nationstar from 2006 to 2016, most recently serving as the company’s executive vice president of portfolio investments.
“Patel is deeply knowledgeable about the servicing and MSR investment in particular,” the analysts write, adding that Nationstar is hiring an executive search firm to find Stiles’ permanent replacement.
Overall, the analysts write that Nationstar could be in for a rough first quarter from an origination standpoint, but suggest that the company is in a good position for long-term success.
“However, consistent with commentary on the Q4 earnings call, Q1 is looking particularly weak with respect to origination profitability—revenue has simply compressed faster than expenses,” the analysts write.
“We expect this should reconcile itself in Q2 but the transition to a lower volume environment has been more painful than expected. While covering the stock not yet five months, this has been an exceptionally volatile period,” the analysts continue.
“Initiating at $14.88 October 24, the stock hit $20 by early February only to drop almost 25% from its highs, nearly a round trip from our initiation price. While part of this decline has been tied to an emerging uncertainty about origination profitability, part of the issue has been investor messaging,” they add.
“This management change offers an ability to reset that process,” the analysts conclude. “We believe management ‘gets it’ and will seek to more accurately and consistently preview financial performance on a near- and longer-term basis. If successful, that could be a major win with respect to sentiment around this stock.”