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CRE's Next Generation: Radco VP Lisa Hurd Is Pushing For More Women In CRE Finance

This series asks rising stars in commercial real estate about their thoughts on some of the biggest issues facing the industry, such as inequality, climate change and technology.

Four years into her career in commercial real estate, Lisa Hurd came to a crashing realization.

Hurd, who runs The Radco Cos.' capital markets platform, attended a 2016 commercial real estate finance event in Atlanta and studied the audience. Very quickly, a stark reality became clear:

“I looked around the room, and I looked at the 300 people in attendance. I would say 95% of the people were White and only five women,” Hurd said. “And one of [the women] happened to be the event planner."

The Radco Cos. Vice President Lisa Hurd and her husband, Joe Hurd.

At a dinner catering to real estate finance professionals later that evening, Hurd and her friend Sharon Plattner were the only women at a dinner in a roomful of men. That led the two to the conclusion that they needed to do something about the situation.

Hurd is the daughter of Norman Radow, who started Radco, one of the largest multifamily firms in the Southeast. Taking a cue from her founder father, she co-founded the Real Estate Network Empowering Women, or RENEW, a year later, with the goal of encouraging to get more women into a male-dominated industry of commercial real estate finance.

Today, RENEW has 300 members who raise money to create scholarships for women wanting to enter the commercial real estate finance industry.

“It was the elephant in the room that everyone knew about, and there was not a lot of push to make change,” Hurd said. “It's long overdue. But I'm happy we're headed in that direction.”

Greystone Managing Director Alicia Cotton-Doney, a RENEW board member, said Hurd has been one of the few in the commercial finance industry who is actively encouraging more women and minorities to jump into the business not just in the administrative and traditional roles of closing transactions.

“I think she's amazing. I am very inspired by her goals in diversifying the industry, giving more opportunities to women, especially young women,” Cotton-Doney said.

Real Estate Network Empowering Women co-founders Sharon Plattner and Lisa Hurd.

Bias in the industry remains a constant, but organizations like RENEW are attempting to educate the establishment that past behaviors are not acceptable anymore, said Sharon Plattner, a NorthMarq Capital senior vice president who co-founded RENEW with Hurd.

“Throughout my career, I've had people tap me on the face and say, 'Sweetheart, what do you know about finance?' And I'm 47 years old. I think I know something about it,” Plattner said. “Just because that was the way things were done in the past, that's not the way they need to continue to be done.”

Hurd said leading Radco's acquisition strategy in recent years, dealing with investors who are predominantly male, she has often felt that she was at risk of being marginalized around the negotiation table and had to fight harder to have her voice heard.

“My first year on the job, in this part of the job, I would find that I had to make everything I said with such a level of authority and just self-confidence,” she said. “It's not the way that I would normally speak. I had to be very assertive in what I was saying because if I gave someone an inch of, 'Well, maybe not,' then they would have taken it a mile. And I don't think they would have done that with a male counterpart.”

Radco Cos. founder Norman Radow with his daughter and vice president of acquisitions, Lisa Hurd.

Even though Hurd comes from a commercial real estate pedigree, she didn't initially choose a path in the industry. Upon leaving college in 2012, Hurd joined her father's company in asset management in what she was expecting would be a temporary position until something else came up.

"I fell in love with it in two weeks and the rest is history,” Hurd said.

She joined Radco when there were only 18 employees. Today, it has a staff of more than 100, and in her five years at the helm, Hurd has helped raise $500M from investors.

The irony that Hurd attempted to run away from commercial real estate, even though she was exposed to it since childhood through her father, isn't lost on her. Despite searching for another line of work, she landed in the business. She even got her now-husband, Joe Hurd, into the industry; he works in acquisitions for Atlanta-based apartment investor Zavala Capital Group.

“I don't think you have to be the daughter of Norman Radow to be successful in real estate. But it's such a pleasure and honor to work with my Dad every day,” she said. “I wouldn't have it any other way. We have so much fun.”