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Jason Hackworth
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jun. 21, 201612:00 PM EST

Angel Oak manager's bow tie isn't just about style; it's a conversation starter

by: Kevin Hogencamp  Contributing Writer

Jason Hackworth was about a decade into his mortgage industry career and real estate was jumping.

He was in a competitive environment and wanted to raise his profile.

“I was looking for something to set myself apart,” said Hackworth, now Angel Oak Home Lending’s Jacksonville-market branch manager.

So he bought a bow tie. Green and navy. It took an hour to learn to tie it so it fit firmly on the collar. He still owns it — and has added many others.

Hackworth isn’t just dapper. His bow ties are conversation-starters.

That’s a huge advantage to have in sales.

“It always leads to questions, laughs,” he said.

And, sometimes business.

Mission accomplished.

Hackworth cut his mortgage-origination teeth after obtaining a business administration degree and answering Norwest Corp.’s newspaper ad in his hometown of Crossett, Ark. Norwest later merged with Wells Fargo & Co.

Hackworth spent about 20 years, mostly in leadership positions, with “Big Bank” as he calls it.

Now, he manages a high-performing branch for Angel Oak, the Atlanta-based retail mortgage lending firm that emerged after the 2008 financial crisis and recession.

During an interview in his Ponte Vedra Beach office, Hackworth realized there’s a parallel between Angel Oak and his bow ties.

Both are downright distinctive.

“It’s funny, now that I think about it,” he said, how bow ties and Angel Oak both set themselves apart.

In addition to offering traditional mortgages, Angel Oak drives sales by offering loans to former homeowners with recent foreclosures, short sales, bankruptcies and credit scores as low as 500.

“We provide opportunities not offered by lenders,” Hackworth said.

Becoming a ‘rock star’

Angel Oak entered the Jacksonville market, albeit softly, after its expansion to Orlando and South Florida in 2011.

In 2013, the firm began providing non-prime loans as soon as one day out of a foreclosure, short sale and bankruptcy.

For non-prime self-employed mortgage borrowers, Angel Oak uses two years of bank statements to determine eligibility. There are no pre-pay penalties for these owner-occupied borrowers.

Hackworth says a huge component of his Angel Oak job is educating real estate professionals, builders, consumers and others the firm offers conventional mortgages along with flexible solutions designed to meet the needs of homebuyers.

“The stigma is that we only do bad credit,” he said. “That’s definitely a bright, shining star for us, but that’s only (part) of our overall business. Our normal business is the same as other large banks or institutions.”

Bill Dickens, Angel Oak’s Florida area manager, recruited Hackworth to open the firm’s brick-and-mortar presence in Northeast Florida in June 2015.

Dickens knew what he was getting in Hackworth; the two were Wells Fargo colleagues.

And Hackworth hasn’t disappointed.

Dickens said Hackworth has scored a perfect 10 on every post-transaction survey Angel Oak has sent to clients and referral partners such as real estate agents and builders.

In a measurement based on volume, units and customer service, Hackworth is Angel Oak’s fourth-ranked producer nationally; the Ponte Vedra Beach office is the company’s second-most productive.

“Jason’s a rock star. He’s No. 1 nationally for Angel Oak in customer service and has grown our market from really nothing,” Dickens said.

He also touts Hackworth as a devoted family man. He and his wife, Nicole, have five children and a grandchild.

“Really, in a nutshell, he’s a great person of society,” Dickens said.

Richard Staley, Angel Oak’s chief development officer, said Hackworth’s extensive experience in leadership positions at Wells Fargo qualified him for the Jacksonville branch manager role.

But what distinguishes Hackworth from many other experienced managers “is his ability to relate to the situation at hand,” Staley said.

“Whether it is a first-time homebuyer or a multimillion-dollar second-home buyer,” he said.

After growing from having one associate to four associates, Angel Oak expects to add at least two Jacksonville-area branches. The company also plans to expand throughout the Southeast and to Texas.

“As Realtors and builders continue to see how we can support them and the first-class services we provide to their clients, there’s no telling where this may go,” Staley said.

The ‘supportive, Angel Oak way’

Nani Hassell, a Realtor with ERA Davis & Linn in Jacksonville, said Hackworth and his associates are particularly sensitive and attentive to her credit-challenged prospective homeowners.

“The level of professionalism and trust Jason and his team bring to this industry is just incredible,” she said.

Hackworth says he simply approaches each potential transaction “the supportive, Angel Oak way” of realizing that each client’s circumstances are unique.

“What I like about our platform is we don’t say ‘no’ a lot,” he said. “It’s not about judging someone on what their past credit event was. It’s about how we can take care of that customer in order to put them back as a homeowner.”

Hackworth can rattle off example after example of clients who received Angel Oak loans after being turned down multiple times by banks.

One self-employed customer received a $373,000 loan despite having multiple foreclosures in his credit file.

Another, with a mid-600 credit score, was approved for a $750,000 lease-purchase with 25 percent down because his bank statement demonstrated he had a healthy income.

“For me, it’s a lot of listening, then it’s a lot of reviewing documentation,” he said. “It’s figuring out what somebody’s needs are and then determining if you can put them in a product or program that will fit their needs.”

Hackworth and his associates also are making their mark because of how they proactively communicate throughout the loan process.

From acknowledging an application was received to sending out client- and referral partner-experience surveys, the borrower, referral partner and closing attorney receive timely email updates.

“Really, that should be the industry standard, but it’s not,” Hassell said. “I spend half of my life chasing my lenders for updates.”

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