Teresa Bazemore, President and CEO of FHLBank San Francisco, has transcended barriers in the finance industry. During Women’s History Month, The Center is proud to highlight a trailblazer who is creating a long-lasting impact on the next generation. Teresa spoke to The Center and shared her trajectory in the housing finance industry, women who have helped her throughout her journey, and advice for young professionals.

The Center: Please tell us about yourself. 

Teresa Bazemore: I grew up in Chesapeake, Virginia and went to the University of Virginia followed by law school at Columbia in New York City. I came out of a period of semi-retirement to join FHLBank San Francisco in March of 2021. I served on corporate boards during that time, including the FHLBank Pittsburgh while I was still a Pennsylvania resident.  I am married – my husband is a real estate developer –  and we have two daughters and one son. 

The Center: What brought you to the housing finance industry? 

Teresa: Like many people, and especially women and people of color, my route to the housing finance industry was not direct; in fact, it was an unexpected turn. I went to law school believing I would make a good lawyer because I had the right skill set, but I had no idea exactly what I would do with my degree.

Throughout my trajectory, I did a lot of work with community groups that led to my ongoing interest in affordable housing and community development. I served on a task force focused on increasing our lending to low- to-moderate- income people and to people of color. That became a focus for the rest of my career. We have an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. For people looking at moving into this industry, we need to be always connecting the dots for them on how this work touches the lives of individuals and families who are able to have a place to call home and to build wealth through homeownership.  

The Center: Is there a woman who influenced you or helped you along your journey?

Teresa: My mother was the top influence on my life, the woman from whom I learned the most about how to be a leader. She showed me that leadership manifests itself in many different ways; her experience was very different from how I show up in the world as a leader. But the lessons she instilled in me was how essential it is to always try to do the right thing.

In my career, I have had many mentors and strong female role models, women who supported me on my journey. I got my first management opportunity working for Susan Burnight at Prudential – she hired me and when she had an opportunity to move into risk management, she recommended me for a management role. When I went to PNC, the general counsel, Helen Pudlin, was a woman, which was still rare at that time. Helen and one of her deputies, Eva Blum, hired me. And at NationsBank/Bank of America, I worked for Robin Warren. I have had the great good fortune of working for many terrific women, and I believe in paying it forward.

The Center: What is the importance of CDFIs and organizations like The Center by Lendistry?

Teresa: FHLBank currently has seven non-depository CDFI members, including Lendistry. We especially value how deeply CDFIs understand the needs of the customers and communities they serve because we share a commitment to advancing economic development, creating opportunity, and fostering community stabilization and revitalization. We are proud to support them by providing reliable and prompt access to low-cost capital, financial risk management tools and services, and discounted community investment credit products and grant programs. And we look forward to partnering with The Center by Lendistry as it supports small businesses in underserved communities through educational and technical assistance programs.  

The Center: You have been breaking ground for women in financial services throughout your career. What advice would you give a young woman starting her career?

Teresa: First, look for opportunities to broaden your knowledge of the business and expand your skill set and expand your network. Raise your hand, be ready and willing to take on new challenges, and think about things from a calculated risk point of view. 

Second is to have fortitude! Collaborate with your manager to create and execute your development plan. Make sure that people know your accomplishments: the people who you work for and other people in your sphere need to be aware of your achievements and capabilities. Always believe in yourself.

The Center CEO and President, Tunua Thrash-Ntuk (left) and Teresa Bazemore (right) at FHLBank System at 100: Focusing on the Future roundtable on CDFIs and community and economic development.

March 13, 2023
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