Teresa Bryce Bazemore stepped into the president’s role at Radian Guaranty in 2008 as the mortgage insurance company grappled with the real estate crash. But Bazemore came prepared. She leveraged her eighteen years of experience as a general counsel in the mortgage industry to hit the ground running and keep an eye on the future rather than getting caught up in the crisis facing the industry.
COACHING THE AMERICAN DREAM
For a host of reasons, the number of first-time homebuyers as a percentage of overall sales has decreased from about 40 percent of the market to 30 percent, according to Bazemore. Yet surveys have shown that most people do want to buy a home, including a majority of potential buyers age forty-five and younger.
Bazemore has been focused on ensuring that first-time homebuyers realize their dreams of homeownership. “It’s not because people don’t want to buy a home,” she says. “Some of it is timing, some people are deferring the decision to buy until they get married, and people are getting married later, having children later.”
There’s also a lot of misinformation in the marketplace. Many people think they need to have a 20 percent down payment, which is not the case. Radian has worked with many consumer groups and trade organizations to help educate potential buyers and real estate agents about the options, including mortgage insurance and evaluating when to buy versus rent.
Bazemore says consumer perception seems to be changing a little, and she is starting to see millennials come off the sidelines a bit.
“One of the benefits for me was the timing,” Bazemore says of the transition from Radian’s general counsel to president. “I think the fact that it was the summer of 2008, right when a lot of issues were going on, but fortunately, because of my background I could also think about how to build a business on a go-forward basis and not just get mired in the difficulties.” Just four months after joining Radian as general counsel in 2006, Bazemore added the responsibility of chief risk officer and then took on the president’s role in July 2008.
Bazemore oversees the mortgage insurance business for Radian Guaranty, a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Radian Group. Radian Guaranty sells private mortgage insurance “to protect lenders from default-related losses, facilitate the sale of low-down payment mortgages in the secondary market, and enable homebuyers to purchase homes more quickly with down payments less than 20 percent,” according to Radian’s website.
Bazemore earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and law degree from Columbia University. Then she clerked for a year for a chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court before moving to a law firm where she worked in commercial real estate development.
Bazemore was drawn to real estate in part because it’s tangible—she could point to a particular building and know she helped it come to fruition. In fact, her first deal was the acquisition of the video scoreboard for the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.
However, Bazemore got into the mortgage banking industry in 1990 when she went in-house with Prudential Insurance/Prudential Home Mortgage. She later served as general counsel for PNC Mortgage and Bank of America’s mortgage business before joining former Prudential colleagues to launch Nexstar Financial Corporation, a private mortgage lender that was sold to MBNA, now owned by Bank of America.
“Having done a startup was a huge benefit to me in hindsight,” Bazemore says. “Because when you’re in a big company, you can have a certain perspective, and how you think about risk can also be different because you have more leeway, you have more capital, etc. When you’re in a small company that you’re growing, your risk appetite is very different.”
Her experience with both large and small companies gave Bazemore insight on drivers of success and managing business development. She learned to approach issues from not just the legal point of view, but the business mind-set as well. “When you are the chief legal officer, you see everything across the whole organization,” Bazemore says. “You’re not pigeonholed into one area. It also gives you an opportunity to connect the dots.”
Bazemore’s involvement in several industry groups aided her transition to president. She served on the Mortgage Bankers Association’s board of directors and was a member of the US Federal Reserve Board’s Consumer Advisory Council, among other groups. “I also had a perspective on what others were doing, how the industry was changing and evolving, and what the hot topics were,” she says.
When Bazemore started as Radian Guaranty’s president, she was largely focused on stabilizing the company, making sure it had enough capital, and ensuring it had the right underwriting guidelines. She also spent a lot of time looking for ways to help consumers stay in their homes, since most of Radian Guaranty’s losses are related to defaulted loans that go to claims.
“To the extent that we were able to help some borrowers either modify their loans or get in a situation where they could move forward with keeping their home, that was a win-win for us,” Bazemore says.
Bazemore also positioned the company for future success, specifically working to diversify Radian Guaranty’s business beyond the top twenty lenders and spread its risk over a variety of large banks, community banks, credit unions, and other lenders. The company built its sales force and made investments as it sought to move forward. In 2014, it achieved its first full year of profitability since 2006.
“It allows you to spend your time really thinking about what’s next, and how you build opportunity, and build the business going forward,” Bazemore says. “You don’t have to spend so much time worrying about some of those legacy issues left over from the crisis.”