Amitha Rao: Technology Adoption In Field Services Key To Client Satisfaction

Safeguard in the News
November 5, 2015

PERSON OF THE WEEK: Amitha Rao is assistant vice president of client systems and data analytics for field services company Safeguard Properties. Specifically, Rao leads data architecture and governance for all systems, with the goal of creating a consistent and reliable information management platform. MortgageOrb recently interviewed Rao to learn more about how technology is helping Safeguard improve its operations and boost client satisfaction.

Q: What is an example of big data being leveraged at Safeguard?

Rao: At our company, we have been using big data and the latest technologies to inform mortgage servicing clients on the status of their properties across the country. For some time now, we have been leveraging that data to be more proactive at properties. Utilizing big data analysis, we can identify patterns, predict behavior, and mitigate potential risks.

Investing in mobile technologies has also helped us gather salient data points. For example, the location of a contractor can now be extracted as a part of the geographic information systems (GIS) built into his or her device. Safeguard’s mobile application team continues to upgrade to newer technologies, enabling us to collect salient data without burdening our contractors with extra steps.

Mobile devices in conjunction with our in-house developed mobile applications have also increased the quality of the data collected by our contractors. For instance, Safeguard’s mobile apps will not allow duplicate or out-of-date photos to be uploaded into our systems. The apps will also flag any data being uploaded from an incorrect property location based on longitude and latitude or through prior geo-location markers.

Q: How do you use data to drive performance to meet client service level agreements (SLAs)?

Rao: Every mortgage servicing client and investor has its own unique set of regulations and guidelines on how to service properties. Our company’s established processes and data collection experience makes it easier to adapt to this multitude of variances in work orders. We collect data, no doubt, but our data collection is very detail oriented and tailored to a very specific need. An example our CEO often uses is, “If it is Tuesday and raining and if the door of the property is blue, the contractor needs to do X, Y and Z.” We have the flexibility to extract those specific client parameters and relay those details to the contractor. Safeguard is able to customize and perform next actions based on various client parameters.

We also track our SLAs closely and take pride in making sure we are on target and above client and investor expectations. The SLA around various processes is tracked and communicated to the folks running the business. If a client’s expectations are not met, then, the issues in question are thoroughly analyzed to understand the deficiencies or roadblocks in both data and processes, and mitigating controls are put in place to minimize them. This would not be possible if we were not capturing data at the lowest granularity.

Q: What new initiatives have been implemented to provide timeliness and quality of property preservation?

Rao: In the mortgage field services industry, timeliness and quality go hand in hand. Our contractors are not only ranked on how soon they send us the results from the field, but also by their quality of work. Contractors are evaluated using scorecards that are calculated either bimonthly or weekly. The scorecards are trended to identify issues and patterns and correct any discrepancies.

The contractors are made part of this process through their vendor account managers (VAMs), who review the scorecards with the contractors so that they understand the issues and, if a pattern is identified, modify their practices, as well. For example, a particular contractor might be great at submitting and completing work, but if its work is not up to the standards required by Safeguard and our client, then adjustments are necessary and critical. Utilizing the readily available data from our systems and identifying the issues and solutions, the VAMs can coach and help the contractors to deliver both timely and quality results.

Q: How has information foraging been applied in the industry?

Rao: Information foraging is how people (i.e., data consumers) search for information. A better understanding of search behavior can improve the usability of desktop and mobile applications or other interfaces. This has been a big initiative for us. Because contractors and inspectors are the eyes and ears of the clients and investors, close to 10,000 attributes are collected on a work order. It would be impossible to manually review all of this data and identify risks and patterns. However, we are able accomplish this by utilizing home grown, custom developed, intricate business algorithms.

Having access to a million data points means property risks can be identified and communicated to the client with little or no delay. For instance, we can identify if a property with a sump pump has had its electricity turned off. If so, this is a potential “actionable condition,” and as a result, we can immediately have the electricity reinstated to ensure that the property is no longer at risk.

Q: How has geospatial analysis impacted property preservation industry?

Rao: We have expanded our GIS analysis in the last several years. What began as a solution for clients in managing weather and disaster-impacted properties has led to quality assurance and better service offerings.

Map Alert was our first experience with geo-location technology. Clients log onto the system, and by using interactive U.S. maps, they can view their current properties being serviced by Safeguard, properties that need repairs, bids on properties, grass cuts in progress, properties that are affected by severe weather or properties that could potentially be impacted by severe weather and natural disasters.

Very early, our IT team identified the huge potential for geo-location services in the mortgage field services industry. We expanded its use beyond work orders and disasters into ensuring that the inspectors were at the correct property address and assigning rush or urgent work orders to contractors based on real-time location data, to name a few. These initiatives save both time and costs and also mitigate risks.

Additionally, we began utilizing data visualization. By visualizing order volume, on-time and late percentages geospatially on a U.S. map rather than in an Excel file, we can make more informative decisions on order reallocation, contractor portfolios, timeliness of orders, and cost and volume distribution.

Q: What optimization techniques have been applied to collect data from fields?

Rao: Newer mobile technologies have made it easier for Safeguard and its contractors and inspectors to collect property data in the field. With more than 90% of the network utilizing these technologies, unique metadata is captured after each visit to a property. Coupled with geo-location technology and data analytics, we have continued to deliver the highest-quality results in a timely manner.

Additionally, all of the data collected by our contractors is stored on a faster and reliable network in multi-data centers with flash recovery and backups through a more reliable data storage infrastructure.

For the future, Safeguard is testing the use of video in the field to paint a better picture of property status, the extent of damages and overall property conditions.

Source: MortgageOrb

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CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.

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Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.

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CHEIF INFORMATION OFFICER

George Mehok

George Mehok is the chief information officer for Safeguard. He is responsible for all strategic technology decisions, new systems deployments and data center operations supporting a national network of more than 10,000 mobile workers.

George has more than 20 years of leadership experience dedicated to high-growth companies in the mobile telecommunications and financial services industries, spanning startups to global industry leaders.

George played a senior role in the formation of Verizon Wireless, leading the IT product development and strategic planning team. He led the integration planning for the Verizon merger including: GTE, Vodafone-AirTouch, Bell Atlantic Mobile and PrimeCo.

As chief information officer at Revol Wireless, a VC-backed CDMA wireless communications network operator, George’s team implemented an integrated technology infrastructure and award-winning business intelligence platform.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Eastern Michigan University and an M.B.A. from The Ohio State University. He is a board member of Akron University’s School of Business Center for Information Technology, in addition to an advisory board member for OHTec.

In 2013, George won the Crain’s Cleveland Business CIO of the Year award for his team’s work in completing a major acquisition and technology transformation at Safeguard. In 2015, George’s team was recognized by InformationWeek’s annual Elite 100 ranking of the most innovative U.S.-based users of business technology. The mobile inspection technology developed at Safeguard was selected as InformationWeek’s “One of the top 20 ideas to steal in 2015”.

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General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard, with oversight responsibilities for the legal, human resources, training, compliance and audit departments. Linda’s broad scope of oversight covers regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, pro-active risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human capital and training initiatives, compliance and audit services, litigation and claims management, and counsel related to mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda’s oversight of the legal department along with multiple compliance and human capital focused departments assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans almost 20 years, and Linda’s experience, both as outside and in-house counsel, covers a wide range of corporate matters, including regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.

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Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for oversight of the Control, Quality Assurance, Accounting and Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.

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AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.

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AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.

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AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.

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AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.

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AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.

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AVP, Mobile and Analytics

Jason Heckman

Jason Heckman is the assistant vice president of mobile and analytics for Safeguard. He is responsible for both Safeguard’s mobile development and strategy as well as the company’s data warehousing and business intelligence. Jason oversees the design, development and release of all Safeguard’s internally developed mobile applications. He also oversees the development and delivery of operational and analytical data technologies throughout the organization.

Jason joined Safeguard as manager of mobile in 2012. During that time he led the development and integration of Safeguard’s mobile applications across the company’s vendor network to provide real-time data from the field. In 2014, he was promoted to director of mobile applications and named assistant vice president in 2017.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Jason was the director of application development and business intelligence for Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana.

Jason holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

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AVP, Business Development

Tim Rath

Tim Rath is the AVP of business development for Safeguard. He is responsible for developing innovative growth strategies for Safeguard and developing and overseeing potential partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

Tim joined Safeguard in 2011 as project director and has filled numerous roles within Vendor Management, most recently serving as director of vendor management, a role he assumed in 2011.

Prior to Safeguard, Tim worked as director of supply chain at PartsSource Inc. in Aurora, Ohio, a provider of medical replacement parts, procurement solutions and healthcare supply chain management technology services. He also has held sales positions with Rexel, ComDoc, and Pier Associates, all based in Ohio.

Tim holds a degree in marketing and sales from The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. He also earned his FAA Certified Commercial UAS (Drone) Pilot license in 2017.