Jack Laughlin currently serves as Senior Investment Associate at Chicago-based Pangea Mortgage Capital and helps oversee PMC’s underwriting. Prior to joining PMC, he worked on Pangea Properties’ Asset Management team, focusing on revenue management, business intelligence and strategic oversight for Chicago’s West Side and the Indianapolis market.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?
I was born in Evanston, Illinois, and growing up my family lived in Edgebrook and the northern suburbs. I graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in economics. While there, I also studied abroad in London and later founded the undergraduate real estate club.
How did you get your start in the industry?
My father is in commercial banking, having spent most of his career in commercial real estate lending, so I had exposure to the industry from a young age. When I was in the 8th grade, as my dad and I were on the way to a Notre Dame football game, we took a quick detour to check out the progress on one of his client’s latest developments, a condominium tower in Lincoln Park. Standing just outside the construction fencing, he explained how all it took was one person’s vision to set in motion an enormous project that involved countless other trades. Fourteen-year-old me, already having a lifelong obsession with Legos, was instantly sold on real estate as a career path.
Breaking into the industry was relatively organic. When I was at Notre Dame, the school hadn’t yet launched their formal real estate curriculum, but I had a group of friends interested in the field. While taking the couple of real estate classes Notre Dame offered, we attended networking events, laid the foundation for the real estate club and decided to team up for the Eisenberg Foundation case competition our senior year. Around that time, I received a cold call from the then-head of Pangea’s FP&A group asking if I would be interested in interviewing for their Leadership Development Program. The rest is history.
My first two-plus years at Pangea were in that semi-rotational financial analysis program. I spent most of my time on the revenue-management side of Pangea’s business, but I also worked extensively in SQL and building business intelligence tools for the broader company. I made the switch to our rapidly growing Pangea Mortgage Capital subsidiary in late 2019.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
Besides my dad, there are several others who have played a significant role in my development. David Hutchison, a Notre Dame real estate professor, taught me the fundamentals and introduced me not only to real estate finance, but also classmates who shared my passion. My cousin Paul Laughlin works in real estate finance, historically in multifamily private equity, and more recently in retail redevelopments and dispositions. I have several other cousins in or tangential to the business, with a few working in finance/accounting for large contractors and others in architecture.
What does an average day in at work look like?
The days begin relatively consistently — I wake up around 6 a.m., log a Peloton workout, and after getting ready, start my 20-minute walk from River West to Pangea’s office in the West Loop. From there, the schedule wildly varies. My primary responsibilities include managing much of PMC’s underwriting and our two new investment analysts. Together, our underwriting team accounts for transactions from the pipeline through loan closing, including market calls/research, site visits, investment committee, legal and managing third parties. Aside from underwriting, given we’re a small team and wear multiple hats, I also play a role in budgeting, marketing and asset management. I have also been crowned our team’s social chair, a title I don’t take lightly.
What do you like most about your job?
The exposure, both external and internal. I have always been interested in development and redevelopment, and since we’re bridge lenders, most of the deals we close are ground-up construction or heavy rehab. I love underwriting new transactions and seeing the world through different developers’ lenses. We transact on anything from the “core four” to more specialty properties such as senior living, hospitality and MHC, coast to coast. This broad mandate allows us to learn a little bit of everything about all markets and property types, while maintaining an expertise in short-term structured financing.
Internally, since we are a vertically integrated firm, we receive direct exposure to both Pangea’s leadership as well as its various lines of business, from property management to construction to operations and asset management. I think this gives us an edge in the lending space because we know what it means to be an owner, and we have nearly 500 employees on the equity side of the business that we can consult at any time.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you have not already?
Near term, I will be spending more time fostering existing relationships and making new connections. My goal is to start originating next year, so a focus this year is on networking and the conference circuit. Part of that progression also relies on the development of our new analysts and making sure they’re at the level of autonomy to get deals to the closing table.
Longer term, I look to concentrate on real estate that has a hospitality focus, but I think of that as more than just hotels — multifamily, senior living and build-to-rent/sell all have their own element of hospitality. There’s an intimacy to real estate, and while most take it for granted, the fact is we spend around 90% of our life indoors. It’s our duty and opportunity as real estate professionals to produce practical, sustainable and hospitable places to live and play for not only our growing and aging populations, but also for the generations to come. After all, we are in a unique field where the projects we develop will often outlast the very people who made them happen.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
I’m fortunate that most of my family and friends have stayed in the Chicagoland area, so my weekend plans often involve them. We maximize our outdoor time in the Chicago summers, frequently playing golf, visiting the Lincoln Park farmers market, grilling on our deck and bouncing around neighborhood festivals and bar patios. In the colder months, we enjoy the movies, museums, indoor pickleball and racquetball and going out to eat. My greatest personal passion is traveling, and I try to make time for two weeklong escapes each year — one relaxing on a new beach, and another exploring a new city. Next up: Mayakoba.