Online mortgage lender Better.com is on a mission to reinvent its image.
The controversial startup today announced several new hires of senior executives, including a new chief growth officer and a new head of sales.
In case you missed it, Better.com has seen a flood of execs leave the company in recent months, laying off thousands of employees in multiple rounds of layoffs.
Now the New York-based startup says it has named Sushil Sharma as the first Chief Growth Officer. Sharma previously served as Chief Product Officer at LendingTree and Match, where he helped that company go public and led product, marketing analytics, CRM and revenue.
Steve Riddell has been named the company’s new head of sales. He has three decades of executive sales experience at companies such as Casper, Sprint and Blinds.com, which was acquired by Home Depot.
“In just six years, Better has created nearly $100 billion in mortgages,” said Vishal Garg, CEO and founder of Better, in a press release. “Expanding our team with seasoned professionals who are still fast, hungry and eager will be critical to reaching our next growth phase.”
In addition to Sharma and Riddell, Better Ryan has also named Jewison as head of Better Cover, the company’s digital insurance arm. Before that, he worked at US Bank, Doma and Elavon. Nick Taylor has been named head of Better Real Estate and previously worked at Zillow in sales and strategy and at Modus. Josh Durodola has been named head of Better Services after serving as the company’s director of strategy and operations. Brian Ro has been named VP of People after previously leading total rewards and compensation strategy at Deloitte, Zeigler, Ripple, Chekr and Gopuff.
Jennifer Malin has been named head of corporate risk and was previously a partner at global law firm Winston & Strawn. And Nitin Bhutani has been named head of marketing, having previously worked at HSBC, LendingTree and JG Wentworth.
In an interview with londonbusinessblog.com, Ro told me he joined the company in May and is encouraged by the company with “talented people who want to be here and be a part of the rebirth.”
“And honestly, that’s also the reason I joined the company,” he added. “I believe in the mission, that the buying process of a house should be faster, easier and cheaper. Better is still the largest online mortgage lender in the country. So they are a leader in what they do.”
Better would go public last year through a SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) that would have valued the company at more than $7 billion. In recent months, the company’s reputation and operations have suffered from an abundance of bad publicity and deteriorating market conditions, including a slower housing market and higher mortgage rates. Better’s handling of the first round of layoffs, as well as subsequent staff reductions, have also created a host of problems for the company.
In June, we reported that the company had lost three senior executives, including the SVP and VP of Sales. Company CTO Diane Yu in April transitioned from her managerial role to an advisory position†
In February, londonbusinessblog.com reported that Sarah Pierce, who served as Executive Vice President of Customer Experience, Sales and Operations, and Emanuel Santa-Donato, who served as Senior Vice President of Capital Markets and Growth, were no longer with the digital mortgage company. Their departure followed that of three other executives who left the company in December last year in the wake of the layoffs: Patrick Lenihan, the company’s VP of communications; Tanya Gillogley, head of public relations; and Melanie Hahn, head of marketing.
In June, Pierce filed a lawsuit against Better.com, alleging that the company and CEO Garg misled investors when it attempted to go public through a SPAC.
When Pierce left the company earlier this year, it was not clear whether she was leaving voluntarily or being asked to resign, but Pierce indicated in her suit that she was being pushed out.
In her lawsuit, Pierce alleged, according to The Wall Street Journal, that Better.com had misrepresented its company and prospects so that it could move forward with its SPAC. Since that lawsuit, several employees have expressed resentment at Pierce for “got a big payday” while many employees have been left out in the cold.
Better.com’s move to lay off about 900 employees over a Zoom video call on December 1, 2021, eventually went viral. It wasn’t the first company to lay off people through Zoom during a global pandemic, but it was the way it was handled that offended so many. Co-founder Garg was universally criticized for being cold and numb in his approach. He also added an insult days later by: publicly blaming affected employees from “stealing” from their colleagues and customers by being unproductive.”
Then, on March 8, the company laid off an estimated 3,000 of its remaining 8,000 employees in the US and India and “accidentally rolled out severance payments too early”.
In April, a filing revealed that Better.com posted a loss of more than $300 million last year, a sharp turnaround from its profitable 2020. Garg has also been the target of multiple lawsuits by PIMCO, Goldman Sachs and other investors involving entities that he checked .
Also released in April was a video of Garg and CFO Kevin Ryan addressing the remaining employees right after the chief executive carried out those layoffs, confirming many reports of his brash style and harsh words about those affected.
That video, obtained by londonbusinessblog.com, showed Garg addressing the layoffs and admitting he’d made a number of mistakes, including being undisciplined in managing the company’s money and recruiting strategy.
My weekly fintech newsletter, The Interchange, launched May 1st! Sign Up here to get it in your inbox.