Boots on the Ground Collaboration

Robert Klein, founder and chairman of Safeguard Properties, was featured in the Mortgage Servicing News article, titled Industry Focus: Boots on the Ground Collaboration.

Industry Focus: Boots on the Ground Collaboration

The crisis has turned field service providers?often called the servicers? boots on the ground?into a primary liaison that is helping improve a crucial dialogue between the servicing industry, local code enforcement officials and foreclosure prevention entities nationwide.

Industry veteran Robert Klein, Safeguard Properties? founder and chairman of the board, told this publication that given millions of vacant homes nationwide it is going to be ?very, very difficult? to ensure these properties are properly maintained and do not cause blight for their communities. It is their biggest responsibility going forward as the number of foreclosures and real estate owned inventory creeps up.

What is critical at present ?and will be even more critical in the future? is to open new lines of communication between lender-servicers and local communities where these distressed properties are located, a practice national field servicers like Safeguard came to develop over the years. It means cooperating with local REO code enforcement officials whose job is to ensure servicers comply with county, state and federal requirements.

Klein says the sooner everyone realizes that when it comes to REOs field servicers are the main point of contact for servicers, the better.

Field servicers are the boots on the ground, but so are the local code enforcement officials. ?So there are two types of boots on the ground, and if we work together and we keep the dialogue open, it?s going to help solve the problem.?

Years of working experience, Klein says, have shown that having local code enforcement officers communicate with field inspectors who regularly inquire whether the grass is being cut and everything is okay with the neighbor?s house, for example, always helps improve both maintenance results and the servicers? bottom line.

If embraced by servicing shops large and small in a ?that is how things should be done? fashion, this approach can positively change the dynamic of the field servicing industry.

This ?on the ground? effort, which may not have been very popular a decade ago, has naturally evolved because of the crisis. It is the way into the future that already has many supporters.

Over the past few years more intensive communication between the two parties has helped open the dialogue and educate code enforcement officers about the role of field servicers. Catering to that need Safeguard established a code enforcement department dedicated to establishing open dialogue and long term relationships with code enforcement departments around the country.

Until the situation stabilizes everyone?s efforts are focused on keeping people in their homes.

?We don?t know what the end result will be for this foreclosure crisis,? Klein says.

?Our role is to keep a lid on it, make sure vacant properties don?t deteriorate.?

And among others, that is the goal of code enforcement officials as well.

Klein, who over the years built a so far very successful field services firm, finds the most efficient, market tested strategy in dealing with REO management challenges is to establish a proactive working relationship with the local communities, and for a good reason, because local officials do not always understand the role of servicers and field servicers.

?Our job is to avoid or correct the problems,? he says.

So while all servicers tend to apply the same property management practices on the ground, what makes a difference is whether they manage to keep open the lines of communication.

It helps if when problems arise code enforcement officials know that their primary point of contact is the field servicer.

?The biggest problem code enforcement officials have had over the years is that they did not know who to call when they had a problem.?

However, only mutual interest can keep open that kind of dialogue and collaboration. It took a major economic crisis to facilitate the interaction.

If field servicers are by design interested in communicating with local code enforcement officers, the crisis created an equally strong incentive for these entities.

According to Klein for years it used to be ?us against them.?

Now the attitude is, ?Let?s work together. Let?s see what can we do together,? which is part of the solution. ?We?re both there to accomplish the same thing, save these neighborhoods.?

In his opinion the biggest step towards solving the REO inventory problem is an efficient partnership between field service providers with servicers and other entities.

?We don?t have the solution yet, because the problem is way too big, but at least we?re on our way to putting our heads together and brainstorming to find a solution,? he says. ?Servicers rely on us to keep that dialogue open. I think that?s the biggest thing that has happened in the past year, year and a half.?

In 2011 his hope is to see that close collaboration intensify even more at the state level since many REO management issues are affected by state-level legislation.

For example, it can take anywhere from 18 to 19 months to foreclose on a vacant property ?and allow the servicer to take some action on the property.?

And if in the cases where properties in foreclosure are occupied that extension ?is a good thing,? he agrees.

In such cases everything should be done to keep the family in the home. But since it takes as long and longer?sometimes two to three years to foreclose on a vacant property in some judiciary states?it means that servicers? hands are tied.

It is a well-known fact that servicers cannot properly maintain, repair on a regular basis, or otherwise manage their preservation so they are ready for sale when a buyer shows at the door, unless and until the foreclosure process is closed.

It also means most probably the property will deteriorate beyond the repair point by the time the paperwork has gone through the proper court channels and is officially under the care of the lender-servicer.

Especially vacant REO management is a daunting task.

Klein is one of many in the industry who see benefits in promoting a speedier process either to ensure the foreclosure process of a vacant property goes through, or to reach an agreement with the homeowner so they continue to reside in the property so it does not turn into blight.

The only way to make the management of foreclosures and real estate owned properties efficient is to give servicers legal power to deal with related problems sooner rather than later.

Klein is optimistic that going forward it is not going to be the same old.

?We?re finding new ways of doing things that are part of the solution? including new legislation that aims to speed up the vacant property foreclosure process.

He expects the new ?cooperative partnership? between field servicers and code enforcement officials needs to further develop in the future. And there is promise for positive change in the fact that the field services industry at large is making efforts to expand this open dialogue and collectively moving to the same direction.

To view the online article, please click here.


About Safeguard
Safeguard Properties is the largest privately held field services company in the country. Located in Cleveland, Ohio and founded in 1990 by Robert Klein, Safeguard has grown from a regional preservation company with a few employees and a handful of contractors performing services in the Midwest, to a national company with over 800 employees. Safeguard is supported by a nationwide network of subcontractors able to perform any requested superintendence, preservation, and maintenance functions, as well as numerous ancillary services in the U.S., the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.



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.


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.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers 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.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.