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CMHC’s New Leader

evan-siddallIt’s been half a year since CMHC CEO Karen Kinsley departed, but Canada’s housing agency finally has a new full-time boss.

His name is Evan Siddall. He’s a financial market pro who’s worked for BMO Nesbitt Burns, Goldman Sachs & Co. and Lazard Freres. Most recently, he was a Special Advisor to the Bank of Canada.

In a statement today, Siddall said:

“I look forward to…[ensuring] that Canadians continue to benefit from CMHC’s key role in providing affordable and accessible housing, as well as in promoting a strong financial system.”

Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney added, “His proven financial and capital markets expertise will be of tremendous value to CMHC.”

That experience had to be a major factor in the Finance Department’s decision to install Siddall, given that CMHC guarantees $400 billion worth of mortgage securities.

CMHCIn light of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s previous statements about reducing CMHC’s role in housing, industry executives can be forgiven for wondering whether the Finance Department installed a puppet to run the company. The endorsement of a CMHC critic like Finn Poschmann may only heighten such concerns.

Poschmann, a researcher at C.D. Howe, gave the Wall Street Journal a glowing review of Siddall: “Evan is a calm, understated professional hand and has a terrific understanding of financial markets, and where risks wherein them lay. It is an inspired appointment.”

Mortgage professionals may worry, however, that Siddall doesn’t have extensive mortgage experience. They’ll question his understanding of housing risk, and of the challenges facing lenders, due to Finance Department limitations on securitization guarantees, bulk insurance and underwriting guidelines.

But Siddall is certainly highly capable. It’s just a matter of which policies he must, or chooses to, follow. He takes the reins on January 1 for a five-year term.

Rob McLister, CMT