Published April 21, 2015
Volume 23, Number 4

Loan Executive Enjoys Travel to Unwind from Career

By Zoe Francis

Jackie James is as serious about relaxing as she is about her hard-driven career.
The branch manager at Axia Home Loans works nearly round the clock at her profession, so she sincerely savors the rare moments she gets to take it easy.
Jackie James“I’m the most relaxed, most laid back and most calm when I’m there,” James said of her favorite get-away location in Kona, Hawaii. “There’s something about Hawaii that suits me. I don’t need to be around a big city. The reason I like Kona is because it’s so small. It’s not like San Francisco or Honolulu. There’s one road that goes around the whole island, so you can’t get lost.”
The successful home loan specialist first started traveling to Hawaii when her three children, now grown and with kids of their own, were young.
“Every year for Thanksgiving, we went to Hawaii, traveling from island to island,” she recalled. “We decided we liked Kona the best. I started with a timeshare, but I ended up buying my own place, which we use regularly.”
James makes a point of visiting her Kona condominium three or four times a year, including the annual trip to continue the family’s Thanksgiving tradition.
“I’m there every Thanksgiving,” she said. “Back when (the kids) were little, they didn’t’ have any choice. Now, it’s up to them, but they try to make it over as often as they can.”
Midwestern Roots
Hawaii is a long way from James’ roots in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she was born in 1953. Her mother worked for Western Electric, while her father etched out a career with the Chrysler Corporation.
James didn’t stay in America’s heartland for long. The family relocated to California in the early 1960s.
“We migrated to California to reunite with a sister my father hadn’t seen since the Depression,” she said. “My father located his sister through the Navy. We came to visit and liked it, so we stayed in Livermore. That was probably 1960 or 1961.”
James’ father and his siblings – two sisters and a brother – had been separated when they were young.

“His father was killed in an accident when (my father) was about 3 years old,” she said. “Back in those days, if you didn’t have money to raise your kids, the children were put in family members’ homes who could afford to feed them. The kids ended up in different places. They were spread from Missouri through different cities in Indiana.”
James’ father and aunt both joined the Navy for World War II, each unbeknownst to the other. Their older brother was killed when he was shot down over Germany during the war. They never located their sister.
The brother and sister “were reunited with each other after having not seen each other for more than 30 years,” James said, clearly touched by her family’s plight. “He’s 89, she’s 90 and they’re best buds.”
The family stayed in Livermore a couple of years before moving to Fremont, where James graduated from Washington High School. She immediately plunged into studying business and accounting at Ohlone College.
Career Start
James forged a career in bookkeeping at Union City carpet company before moving into marketing and sales for a Hayward computer company.
“I was in a serious car accident and could not do any traveling at that time because of the accident,” she recalled. “Someone said, ‘Oh my god, you’d made a great loan agent.’ I didn’t even know what that was. I’ve been doing it for 31 years now.”
She credits her first two jobs with giving her the ideal skill set for successfully tackling the loan industry.
“I have an aptitude for numbers,” she said. “You take the sales part from the computer company and the numbers part from bookkeeping, and it fit perfectly into this industry.”
James started at Homes Savings of America in Fremont in 1984 while she was recovering from the car accident. By then, she had three children she was raising while starting her career.
She was promoted to branch manager at First Nationwide Bank in Pleasanton in 1990, two years after her family moved to that city. She advanced up the ranks to become regional manager before leaving to manage a major brokerage firm, a job she held for nearly nine years.
James enjoyed the loan business so much that she eventually moved back into that field. She has been with Axia Home Loans for two years.
“You get to help people,” she said of the reason she enjoys her career. “The more technically sound you are in this business, the easier you can make it on your clients. I’m good at communicating with them to help them understand what they need to do to get a good home loan.”
The only downside is that technology has made the home loan business a 24-7 enterprise.
“With email and text messaging, it’s a 24-hour job,” she said. “If your borrower needs something, you have to reply, or you’re not going to have any customers.”
The industry itself has also changed, becoming far more complex than it was when James first entered the field more than 30 years ago.
“Our industry has gone through so many changes in the last 10 years,” she said. “Documenting a loan file now is sometimes mind-boggling. Everybody’s circumstances are different. You really have to be engaged in the process with your borrower.”
“While stressful, I just accept that it’s a part of the business and deal with it the best I can,” she added. “I enjoy the people I work with tremendously. We try to have humor as much as we can.”
Travel Essential for Unwinding
In addition to carving out time for trips to Hawaii, James has also managed to see a large part of the world though multiple cruises. England, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Greek Islands, Venice, the Caribbean, Tahiti, Mexico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands are among the many exotic ports she has visited.
“Cruising allows you an opportunity to see multiple locations and not have to move your stuff,” she said with a laugh. “Your hotel room goes with you. I got to experience a lot of different countries. I liked knowing that if I got off the boat and didn’t’ really like the country I was in that day, I could just get back on the boat.”
“I liked cruising because I was able to identify areas that I would like to come back and just spend time there,” she added. “That’s the one thing that cruising gives you -- you get to sample.”
James has cut back on her cruise trips in recent years, but still enjoys her trips to Hawaii.
Back on the mainland, James spends time with her family – her grown children, three grandkids and her father and favorite aunt, whom she helps regularly with chores.
“My dad is here in Pleasanton, and I have an aunt who I’m her support system,” she said. “Right now, I’m taking care of my family. My long-term goal is to be in Kona full time.”
When James is in Hawaii, she relishes “the time to relax and tune out everything around you. I go to the ocean, take a book and just sit and read.”
Learn more about James’ business at jackiejames.axiahomeloans.com. Axia Home Loans is a registered trademark of Axia Financial, LLC, NMLS ID 27830. Jackie James NMLS No. 297047.


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