Teresa Bryce Bazemore, 54, could not have picked a worse time to lead a mortgage insurance business. In July 2008, when Bazemore was appointed president of Radian Guaranty Inc., housing prices were falling, foreclosures were mounting, and money was pouring out of Radian as it struggled to make good on mortgages gone bad. The company is still losing money, but at a slower clip. On June 30, Bazemore's mortgage insurance business completed its first quarter of operating profitability since 2007.
Question: What were some of the issues you faced?
Answer: I had our biggest customer threaten to stop doing business with us, because we were tightening up how we were doing business.
Q: By customers, you mean the banks or lending institutions that grant mortgages. Was it a tough decision?
A: I knew I couldn't change what was happening at the company if I didn't make these changes, but I had the risk that our biggest customer could walk away. How would that look? I hadn't been in this job that long.
Q: Did the customer walk?
Q: Radian's health depends on the health of the housing market. How's the patient doing?
A: We are seeing an improvement both nationally and in Philadelphia. Home purchases of both existing and new homes have increased. The purchase market is projected to increase next year so long as interest rates do not increase dramatically.
Q: Radian is finally digging out from under. What challenges loom?
A: The biggest challenge is all the government reforms going on. There are discussions on how to change the housing finance system. That raises the question about whether we'll have the same role going forward.
Q: On Wednesday, Mayor Nutter signed a law requiring companies doing business with Philadelphia to say how many women they have among their business' leadership. Your take on the issue?
A: There are still a lot of boards in this region that do not even have one woman on their board. That's a pretty sad state of affairs in 2013.
Q: You like to negotiate. Is there a negotiation strategy that's especially helpful to women?
A: I think one really important thing for women is to know the subject matter incredibly well. For instance, when I was doing commercial real estate, I learned the lingo of construction. People didn't know quite how to deal with me because I knew more than they expected. I think they felt as though they couldn't pull the wool over my eyes so easily.
Q: There aren't many women in banking and there also aren't many African Americans. You are both. What's most tricky to navigate?
A: I think most of the issues that I've seen have been more around being a woman, but when you are an African American woman, it's very difficult to distinguish.
Q: How many pairs of shoes do you have?
A: Oh jeez, I don't want to discuss it.
Q: What was the last pair you bought?
A: Black leather boots.
Q: Price tag?
Q: Speaking of shoes, do you think heels are a must for businesswomen?
A: I don't know. I'm so short, I think I've always gravitated toward it.
Q: How tall are you?
A: 5-feet-11/2 inches.
Q: What do you do for fun other than buy shoes?
A: I love to go to museums, plays, and concerts.
Q: Last concert?
A: Beyoncé at the Wells Fargo Center.
Q: What's your favorite snack?
A: Chocolate-covered strawberries.
Title: President, Radian Guaranty.
Diplomas: University of Virginia, interdisciplinary studies; Columbia University, law.
Husband, Lenny; stepdaughters Jordan, 18,
Resumé: Joined Radian as executive vice president, general counsel in 2006. Previous jobs as general counsel in the mortgage business.
Sells: Mortgage insurance.
Parent: Radian Group Inc.
Ticker: RDN (NYSE).
Structure: Radian Guaranty is Radian's largest business.
Employees: 700, most in Philadelphia.
2012 revenue: $825.4 million.
2012 net loss: $451.47 million.
To advance, join in, join up, says Teresa Bryce Bazemore at inquirer.com/jobbingEndText