Romy Bowers Named New CMHC CEO as Outgoing Evan Siddall Addresses Off-the-Mark Forecasts

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has named its new CEO, capping what has been an extended search to replace outgoing chief Evan Siddall.

Romy Bowers, CMHC’s current Vice President of Client Solutions, will succeed Siddall and officially begin her five-year term starting April 6.

“I believe that my tenure with CMHC has allowed me to fully understand our business and our culture and I am excited to work closely with my colleagues across the company to help us continue to pursue our housing affordability aspiration,” Bowers said in a prepared statement.

She joined CMHC in 2015 following a career in Canada’s banking industry, including 12 years at the Bank of Montreal. Bowers has previously served as Chief Risk Officer and Chief Commercial Officer at CMHC prior to her current role.

“I have lots of experience in change management, and CMHC’s ambitious agenda for change really interested me,” Bowers added. “I also admired CMHC for the amazing work it did for Canadians during the global financial crisis. This is definitely a company that punches above its weight in terms of influence.”

Siddall said Bowers is an “outstanding choice to succeed me,” and that “…this has been the best job I’ve ever had and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help transform CMHC into an institution Canadians can admire.”

Siddall Admits CMHC’s Pandemic Forecasts Were Wrong

Last May, as the pandemic was getting underway, CMHC attracted headlines with its overly pessimistic forecasts, which predicted a worst-case economic scenario where:

  • home prices fell by 9% to 18% from their pre-pandemic peak
  • mortgage deferrals jumped to 20% from 12%
  • those 20% of forecasted peak mortgage deferrals were at risk of being in arrears

All of this could happen “if our economy has not recovered sufficiently,” Siddall said at the time. The agency even stood by those home price forecasts as recently as last fall.

But now, in a recent thread of tweets, Siddall admits those forecasts were off the mark, largely because the turn of events with Canada’s raging housing market over the course of the year couldn’t have been predicted.

“…we never pretended to have an (sic) crystal ball,” he tweeted. “Not are we all-knowing on housing. We meant to contribute to discourse, even though it was hard to be precise about future. In hindsight, we could have made that clearer.”

Here’s a highlight of part of that thread…

He went on to address the unforeseen events/factors that prevented the agency’s worst-case scenarios from coming to fruition.

“Our recent work highlights compositional/mix changes, shifting preferences, heightened savings rates, decline in immigration and reverse urbanization as unforeseen developments that help explain our forecast errors,” he wrote. “Today, we remain very concerned about an even partial reversal of these factors…”

Siddall’s Legacy

Siddall’s personal legacy is not without its blemishes. He didn’t win many friends among mortgage professionals, nor a segment of homebuyers locked out of the housing market as a result of stricter mortgage rules that Siddall had advocated for.

He oversaw a number of key policy initiatives during his term that had the explicit goal of tightening mortgage lending and making it more difficult for new borrowers to qualify for a loan.

Despite intense opposition from the mortgage and real estate industries, Siddall vigorously defended the tighter regulation, pointing out that the measures reduced the number of highly leveraged borrowers at federally regulated lenders.

“In my seven years on the job, I am proud that we have avoided a housing crisis, but in a sense we failed,” he said last year during an online interview with Mortgage Professionals Canada President and CEO Paul Taylor.

“Prices that bear no relation to underlying economics and that are increasing faster than income are causing an increase in inequality in our country. And the solution is not to make it even easier to buy a house…”

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