SBA Alaska recognizes Wells Fargo’s Harty as top financial advocate

  • Wells Fargo hired Jim Harty five years ago as its first in-house SBA business development officer. Harty was honored by the SBA Alaska Division May 16 for his work on many of the 60 SBA loans originated at Wells Fargo in the last federal fiscal year that totaled more than $23 million. (Photo/Naomi Klouda/AJOC)

Jim Harty puts hundreds of miles a week on his car traveling to meet with business owners applying for Small Business Administration loans through Wells Fargo Bank.

At the end of the day, he’s most likely to be found in his home office making notes about those meetings until the late hours.

Harty’s work on a majority of the 60 SBA loans by Wells Fargo in the last federal fiscal year led the SBA Alaska District Office to recognize him as the 2018 Alaska Small Business Financial Services Advocate. The 60 SBA loans at Wells Fargo totaled $23 million by the end of the 2017 federal fiscal year last Sept. 30.

“His hard work and dedication has helped many small businesses grow and create measurable economic impact throughout Alaska,” said Nancy Porzio, director of the U.S. Small Business Administration Alaska office, in giving the award.

Harty was recognized during the 2018 Alaska Lender Symposium May 17 at the Crowne Plaza Anchorage Midtown Hotel.

Wells Fargo was also recognized as the 2017 SBA Alaska Lender of the Year, for loaning out more money to small businesses than any other Alaska lender. Of the $61.8 million loaned out by banks and credit unions, a third of the Alaska SBA loans originated at Wells Fargo.

And that means most of the loans came after Harty’s initial work with each borrower.

For Harty, it’s an unconventional banker’s life. Of the 60 loans that were approved, “six to eight times that number apply,” he said. That means he is talking to hundreds of small business owners a year.

In order to qualify for an SBA guaranteed loan, a series of criteria need to be met. (The Alaska default rate is low at about 1 percent, Porzio said.) Then, the lender has its own criteria that each business has to meet, Harty said.

At the end of both approval streams, the loan is made.

In a geographic breakdown of 114 SBA guaranteed loans for 2017 in Alaska, the majority, 53, were made to Anchorage businesses, with another 17 in the Matanuska-Susitna area and 12 on the Kenai Peninsula. Businesses in Haines, Kodiak Island, Prince of Wales, Valdez, Cordova, Nome, Hoonah, Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, Fairbanks, Bristol Bay and the North Slope also were granted loans.

While Harty didn’t work on all the loans, consider that the majority of Wells Fargo’s 60 SBA loans were his endeavors. He also works with Wells Fargo-SBA business developer Brian Sielski, who handles loans of $350,000 and less.

“I do most of my work from my iPhone, my laptop and my car,” Harty said.

This week, he anticipates several business stops on the road between Fairbanks and Homer.

“Once they meet the basic criteria for an SBA guaranteed loan, I tell them ‘I’m coming to your business and we’re going to be spending a lot of time together,’” he said.

The tools for analyzing a business are standard in terms of financial risk assessment and meeting loan criteria. Harty’s task is to also study their business plans and understand the entrepreneur’s strategy for success, a process that isn’t looking at the ledger so much as at the entrepreneur’s vision.

After this evaluation, still, only one in eight loans make it to the next level: the underwriter’s desk.

“If early on we determine they don’t meet the criteria, the next question is ‘why not?’ And if not, then is it a problem that can be overcome or is it insurmountable?” Harty said. “Everyone should at least ask the question of whether they will qualify for a loan. If it won’t work, I can show you in five minutes or less. That protects my time and their time.”

For some, the turndown for a loan means “not now.” Repairing the problems can help them become eligible later on.

For successful candidates, it can take 30 to 90 days from application to completion of loan.

Harty, who’s been on the job for nearly five years, came to this career after serving eight years in the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base from 1996 to 2000, then at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs from 2001-03 where he was an instructor in air space science for cadets teaching air campaign plan logistics.

“Believe it or not, it wasn’t that different from evaluating a business,” Harty said. “It all begins with a plan. How am I going to do what I’m going to do tomorrow? The ones who execute a plan are the most successful.”

Immediately after his discharge, Harty took a position with Bank of America in commercial lending. That introduced him to the road, and the face-to-face banking evaluation process.

“There were no Banks of America between Denver and Minneapolis, so I was traveling a lot, spending time at people’s businesses,” he said.

Harty was in a specialty niche analyzing loans for doctors and dentists. He would assess their profit and loss statements and business plans for their loan submittals to a Bank of America hub in Columbus, Ohio.

At the time, he and his wife Yorisha were beginning their family, which now includes three daughters ages 11, 9 and 8. They moved to Anchorage where Harty took what turned out to be a brief position at Key Bank.

After being laid off, he was hired by Wells Fargo. It was the first time the Alaska Wells Fargo had an in-house business development officer specializing in SBA loans.

Previous to that, all the SBA specialty work was by Kelley Mears, a Wells Fargo Bank Oregon district sales manager who continues to help Alaska businesses and was also honored as a Small Business Financial Services Advocate.

Nelida Irvine, the lender relations specialist at the Alaska SBA, said that nationally Wells Fargo is a top lender of SBA-backed loans. In Alaska, the numbers have gone up each year after Harty was hired to focus on this category of loans, she said.

“So he has definitely made a big difference,” she said.

Other awards went to:

SBA Alaska Community Lender of the Year: Evergreen Business Capital. This award recognizes Evergreen Business Capital’s financial assistance to Alaska’s small business owners which resulted in the approval of 18 SBA loans totaling $15.9 million during the federal fiscal year.

SBA Alaska 504 Lender of the Year: First National Bank Alaska:

This award recognizes First National Bank Alaska’s financial assistance to Alaska’s small business owners which resulted in the approval of five SBA 504 loans totaling $2.4 million during the fiscal year.

SBA Alaska Small Business Financial Services Advocate: Wells Fargo Bank VP District Sales Manager Kelley Mears, who is based in Oregon.

Naomi Klouda can be reached at [email protected].

05/23/2018 - 11:01am