Renovate America Taps Ex-Freddie Mac Exec as CFO

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Renovate America has brought in former Freddie Mac executive Paige Wisdom as chief financial officer as the provider of Property Assessed Clean Energy financing seeks to expand across the U.S.

Wisdom was chief enterprise risk officer and executive vice president at Freddie from 2010 to 2015. She spent the past two years as chief financial officer for subprime auto lender Exeter Finance Corp. At Renovate America, she succeeds Tom Hemmings, who had been CFO since 2011.

Hemmings will remain at the company as an executive vice presient focusing on nationwide business expansion while still serving in a senior leadership and advisory role for the firm.

“Paige will add capacity across Renovate America, including strengthening the foundation of a PACE platform that has served almost 100,000 homeowners,” chief executive J.P. McNeill said in a press release published Tuesday. “As a seasoned CFO, she brings strategic, business, and leadership abilities that will reinforce our fiscal and risk integrity and enable our platform to grow nationwide.”

The company also has added former Discover Financial Services CFO and EVP Roy Guthrie to its board of directors. Guthrie currently has board positions with consumer lender OneMain Holdings and NationStar Mortgage Holdings, as well as Synchrony Financial (formerly GE Capital), for whom he heads the risk committee.

Renovate America, based in San Diego, has been the leading firm behind PACE home improvement financing, primarily through residential solar-panel system installations that it now markets in California and Missouri (an expansion to Florida is in the works for later in the year). PACE funds can be used for a variety of energy efficiency retrofits, including HVAC, doors and windows, interior lighting, and water conservation efforts.

The company has  $2.25 billion through PACE programs with local governments that are repaid as twice-annual property tax assessments by homeowners.

Renovate America has also recently launched into unsecured lending with a program offering in four states – dubbed “Benji” – allowing independent contractors partnering with the company to finance home improvements through an online loan application for customers.

The company's PACE platform has run into headwinds in recent months. In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company had made payments on behalf of troubled borrowers unable to make their first tax assessment payments, but did not disclose the potential defaults to investors. The company no longer covers these initial payments for customers.

Renovate America has also endured consumer complaints that independent contractors have signed customers up for solar panel installations or home improvement work without explaining the PACE repayment structure to borrowers. Both the state of California and an industry trade group PACENation have introduced new truth-in-lending consumer disclosure guidelines and rules for PACE financing.

Banks, meanwhile, are ramping up their opposition to the nationwide expansion of PACE programs. The Mortgage Bankers Association and other industry groups are seeking a clampdown on the program, arguing it’s a product that does not underwrite to a borrower’s credit history (but rather on the property value) and also introduces an obligation that, as a tax levy, takes priority over a lender’s mortgage lien.

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