Fannie’s Shakeup, and New CFO, Gear for What’s Next

Current controller Hisey replaces finance chief Swad in broad change that realigns finance department, and installs a possible number-two to Daniel...
Stephen Taub and Roy HarrisAugust 28, 2008

Fannie Mae’s latest attempt to prepare for its uncertain future involves a major shakeup of its executive ranks — and especially the finance department — and includes replacing CFO Stephen Swad with current senior vice president and controller David C. Hisey.

The management upheaval was widely seen as an attempt to simplify and reduce the cost of running the mortgage giant by putting it in fewer hands. At a time when its mortgage business is in serious trouble, the realigned team consists mostly of individuals who have had experience that includes dealing with downturns.

In the company’s restructuring — which also cost the jobs of chief business officer Robert J. Levin and chief risk officer Enrico Dallavecchia — the clear rising star is Fannie Mae and Goldman Sachs veteran Peter Niculescu. As the new chief business officer, in a post with expanded responsibilities, Niculescu is in a position to be the company’s number-two executive, after President and CEO Daniel H. Mudd. Before joining Fannie Mae in March 1999, Niculescu was managing director and cohead of Fixed-Income Research and Strategy for Goldman, a company he joined in 1990.

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Niculescu previously was Fannie Mae executive vice president and head of the capital markets business, and was responsible for managing the company’s on-balance-sheet portfolio, and investments, including overseeing interest rate risk management, asset acquisition, and funding.

New CFO Hisey joined Fannie Mae in 2005 and played a key leadership role in the company’s restatement under former CFO Robert Blakely. The company stressed that Hisey has more than 25 years of financial services experience in mortgage, consumer, and commercial lending, and capital markets.

Along with Hisey’s elevation to CFO, Michael Shaw was appointed chief risk officer, and David C. Benson, currently senior vice president and treasurer, was promoted to executive vice president, capital markets and treasury.

Fannie said that CFO Swad, who joined the company in the spring of 2007, will pursue other opportunities in private equity. Dallavecchia, who also was executive vice president, is leaving to pursue other opportunities in finance and risk management. Levin said he would retire from the company early next year, after 27 years of service.

The changes were announced as the embattled mortgage company tries to regain credibility with regulators and investors as it faces growing losses and shrinking capital.

“I think it’s a good move,” Joshua Rosner, an analyst with independent research firm Graham Fisher & Co., told Bloomberg News, adding that “it speaks to the intent to bolster confidence.”

“After setting forth our capital and credit plan August 8, we are now putting a senior management structure in place to drive this plan across the company,” said CEO Mudd. “This team will be responsible for meeting the dual objectives of conserving capital and controlling credit losses while Fannie Mae continues to provide crucial liquidity to the U.S. housing and mortgage markets. As we move through the bottom of this cycle, maintaining capital, managing credit and driving revenues are the priorities – and we have to organize and staff accordingly.”

In Niculesco’s new position, he will be responsible for the oversight of the three Fannie Mae business divisions: Single-family Mortgage Guaranty, Capital Markets, and Housing and Community Development. In addition, he will oversee the implementation of the company’s capital management and credit-loss reduction plan.

“Peter Niculescu’s wide experience in the mortgage and capital markets, risk management, and global and domestic finance make him the right choice to oversee our business, capital and credit strategies through this difficult cycle, and move into a more solid future for housing and Fannie Mae,” said CEO Mudd.

As CFO, David Hisey will be responsible for ensuring the accuracy, integrity, and timeliness of the company’s financial reporting and accounting, and internal controls. In addition to the finance-chief duties, the company said he will work with Niculescu in carrying out Fannie Mae’s capital management plan to ensure the company remains in a solid capital position, the company said in its announcement.

Said Mudd: “David’s entire career in financial services, particularly in the mortgage industry, makes him uniquely prepared to become CFO. David’s perspective, experience and skills in mortgage finance will serve him well as he oversees the intersection of our two core objectives of capital and credit, and ensure that our financial reporting and disclosure reflect the highest standards. David, as Controller, has supervised and signed off on 26 quarters of our financial results, and his ability to manage the process and people is a huge plus.”

As chief risk officer, Shaw will have overall responsibility for credit, market, counterparty, and operational risk oversight for all business units within Fannie Mae. He also will oversee formulation of risk policies, and the measuring, reporting, and monitoring of the company’s risk profile. Prior to joining Fannie Mae in 2006 as senior vice president, credit risk oversight, Shaw was senior credit executive, consumer banking. Before that he was senior risk executive, policy, reporting, analytics and finance at JP Morgan Chase & Co., and previously was senior credit executive, consumer, for Chase Financial Services. In that role he was responsible for all the consumer bank’s credit risks.

Shaw also previously held senior risk management roles at GE/GE Capital, and served in several risk management roles during a 25-year career at Citibank.

New EVP Benson, who joined Fannie Mae in 2002, previously was managing director and head of E-commerce for the fixed-income division at Merrill Lynch.

The departing CFO, Swad, had been EVP and CFO for AOL prior to joining Fannie in 2007. At AOL, Swad was the financial advisor to divisional presidents and oversaw corporate strategy, financial planning and analysis, internal consulting, controllers, mergers and acquisitions, tax, divisional finance, corporate shared services, and facilities organizations. From 1998 through 2002, Swad had served in various corporate finance roles with Time Warner, and before that was a partner in KPMG’s national office in New York City.

He also had at one time been the deputy chief accountant at the Securities and Exchange Commission.