Jordan Hallam didn’t grow up with a beeline to banking, despite his dad, and mentor, being a banker. “I don’t know any kid who grows up thinking, ‘I want to be a customer relationship manager at a bank,’" quips Hallam.
He was drawn to business, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, from the University of Florida. Yet even at a UF job fair right before he graduated, he wasn’t sold on banking. He interviewed for a host of entry level positions, at places like Kraft Foods and elevator manufacturer ThyssenKrupp AG, now TK Elevator.
The only companies to make Hallam a job offer? Banks.
“I don’t know if it was fate,” he says, “or if I give off a banker’s vibe.”
Not that Hallam is disappointed by that turn of events. In some 15 years in banking he’s worked his way up to his current position, director of Government Guaranteed Lending at Winter Haven-based SouthState Bank. At $44.92 billion in assets, SouthState, which merged with Davenport-based CenterState Bank in a $3 billion deal in 2020, is the largest bank with a Florida headquarters.
At SouthState Hallam oversees a team of 63 bankers and support staff, all tasked with providing SBA and other government-backed loans to businesses. He’s been in SBA lending for six years, mostly in the Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch areas, building a book of business. He was promoted to head up the entire SouthState department, a top 25 nationwide SBA lender, in January.
Hallam has developed a passion for helping small and midsize business owners obtain what many entrepreneurs say is their biggest obstacle: capital. He acknowledges that while other banks offer SBA loans, not every banker understands the nuances of the various government programs, and not every bank has a deep team assigned to the task like SouthState.
“I know it sounds cheesy, but (SBA) lending makes you feel good about what you are doing,” he says. “I’ve had people break down in tears, when we are able to get them (financing).”
Hallam’s dad, mentor and fellow banker Greg Hallam deploys a similar, folksy problem-solver approach to the industry. The younger Hallam says his dad taught him not only banking basics, but the art of building relationships, not just the science of closing deals. Jordan, one of four successful Hallam siblings — others work in TV in Hollywood and in architecture — says a key lesson from his dad is to remember that behind every bank loan, every yes or no, there’s a “real person.”