The embattled online mortgage lender Better has hired a full-time executive to oversee the company’s human resources, Inman has learned. 

Richard Benson-Armer, previously a senior partner at McKinsey & Company, will take the reins as Chief People, Performance, and Culture Officer, effective immediately. Since earlier this year, he had been serving in an interim capacity at Better following the departure of Alex D’Amico, who left in November prior to the layoffs in December and earlier this month.  

The addition comes a week after Better moved to shed 35 percent of its staff in a second round of layoffs as the embattled company sought to rightsize at a time when the mortgage industry is struggling.

It also comes as the company attempts to improve morale. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Better acknowledged it had a culture problem that was hurting its ability to recruit new employees.

“I am delighted to announce that Richard Benson-Armer has agreed to join Better permanently,” Vishal Garg, the company’s CEO, wrote in an email obtained by Inman and sent to the approximately 5,000 employees remaining at the company.

Richard Benson-Armer | Head of Better HR

Benson-Armer was a senior partner at McKinsey & Company for more than a decade and more recently a partner at Activant Capital. He’s been working as Better’s human resources lead since earlier this year. His new title will be Chief People, Performance, and Culture Officer, effective immediately.

In an email to employees, Garg suggested Better remains committed to becoming a public company through what’s known as a SPAC merger.

“As we move towards Better’s next phase as a public company, a key focus for our executive team is building a strong, collaborative culture and expanding our human resources function to support our teams and maintain an environment committed to fairness, respect and opportunity,” Garg wrote in his email.

An end-to-end real estate platform backed by SoftBank and other investors, Better had planned to go public during the fourth quarter of 2021 through a SPAC merger with Aurora Acquisition Corp.

It ballooned to 10,000 employees in late 2021, but its merger was postponed after the deal terms were revised on Nov. 30. Garg fired about 900 Better employees over a Zoom call the next day. 

An amendment to the merger agreement extended the outside date for calling off the merger from Feb. 12, 2022, to Sept. 30, 2022.

It had been struggling financially for months leading up to last week’s layoffs, saying it expected to report losses in the fourth quarter of between $167 million and $182 million. That would exceed losses of $107.4 million in the third quarter.

Benson-Armer “will be responsible for reshaping Better’s people team and its impact on the organization,” Garg said. “Most importantly, Richard will help us create and protect a culture that will attract, build, motivate and retain great team members.”

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