Building the Best Business Ecosystem

Editorial
April 28, 2017

Integrated technologies are the key to effective field services.

Business ecosystems originated in the early 1990s as a strategic planning concept that describes a network of organizations – suppliers, distributors, customers, competitors, government agencies, etc. – involved in the distribution of a product or service. Each business in the “ecosystem” affects and is affected by the others, creating a constantly evolving relationship in which each business must adapt to survive.

According to Wikipedia, James T. Moore, the pioneer of business ecology, defines it as “an economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals – the organisms of the business world. The economic community produces goods and services of value to customers, who are themselves members of the ecosystem. The member organisms also include suppliers, lead producers, competitors and other stakeholders. Over time, they co-evolve their capabilities and roles and tend to align themselves with the directions set by one or more central companies. Those companies holding leadership roles may change over time, but the function of an ecosystem leader is valued by the community because it enables members to move toward shared visions to align their investments and to find mutually supportive roles.”

The mortgage servicing industry’s business ecosystem includes investors, mortgage servicers, field services companies and their contractor networks. These entities all must interact effectively and efficiently to ensure properties are preserved properly and neighborhoods are free of blight. To do so effectively, mortgage field services companies require their internal technology systems and those of their mortgage servicing clients and contractor networks to operate like a business ecosystem. Analytics, system integration and automation all play important roles in developing the most successful technological business ecosystem.

Data analytics has become a key success factor for servicers as they design compliance, risk mitigation and cost control strategies. Mortgage field services companies hold millions of points of data in their systems that can be beneficial in recognizing trends, such as how properties are moving through the convey process, which areas of the country are performing well in property preservation, and compliance or complaint issues in specific municipalities, to name a few. Field services companies are able to capture this data to proactively solve servicers’ problems. But this is only effective if the data is accurate and filtered through a controlled process. Field services companies can ensure the quality of the data by integrating their internal systems with the other entities in their ecosystem – specifically, their mortgage servicing clients.

In a typical workflow scenario, field services companies have their own internal set of systems – one for employees, one for clients and one for vendors. Each has to sign into its designated system to view property work orders and receive results. But integrating field services systems with client systems can reduce the time frame from order placement to final billing invoice and can provide more accurate results. This can be a near-real-time environment for “traditional” property assessments, rather than a batch file of results in a spreadsheet that needs to be reviewed by an employee.

The integrated system workflow begins when a work order is sent from a mortgage servicing client to a field services company. That order can be immediately assigned to an inspector or contractor in the field. That contractor completes the work and can feed results directly from the field on a mobile device to the back office for a quality control check. If something is identified as missing or inaccurate, the contractor can receive confirmation through his or her device and make adjustments or updates on-site.

Once the property assessment is considered accurate and is completed thoroughly, the finalized data is sent to the field services company. In a “traditional” work order scenario, one without any exceptions or discrepancies identified by the automated, integrated system, the information can be sent immediately to the mortgage servicing client, along with an invoice. System integration is key to this process and has reduced the time frame from order entry to completion from days to hours, or even sooner, in a traditional property assessment scenario.

Internally, field services companies set up business rules within the system to help streamline order assignments and identify exceptions or non-traditional work orders. These rules are based on service-level agreements with mortgage servicing clients or previously identified risks in property preservation. If an exception or discrepancy is identified, those order results are placed in a queue to be reviewed by a field services employee.

The integrated system helps field services companies focus more on exceptions by highlighting them in the workflow process. It streamlines the process for “traditional” orders to add more emphasis on exceptions. No longer do employees have to review all orders for errors or issues. Special attention is drawn to the exceptions through the automated workflow process developed into the system.

Automation is the most important element in an integrated business ecosystem. It ensures accuracy and quality of results by automatically evaluating all results, line by line. The business rules programmed into the system from order entry to billing make automation possible. They also allow the field servicers to set specific exceptions that need validation from an internal quality control associate. Examples include all four sides of the property being free of debris, a change in occupancy status or electricity being off when a sump pump is present. For the automation to be effective, the integrated systems must be able to handle real-time changes or updates for all business rules. The industry is continuously evolving, and regulations and legislation change often. The system must be able to adapt just as quickly and be easily configurable, even able to schedule changes in advance.

Mortgage servicing clients benefit from near-real-time information exchanges with field services employees and contractors, reduced time frames, and more accurate results when their systems are integrated with those of their field services partners. They can experience up to three times more efficiency operationally by integrating their systems that can be tailored to their individual portfolio needs.

Results are delivered more timely, and automation ensures a higher level of quality. The system integration does more to highlight exceptions rather than having to sort through all order data. Additionally, defined business rules are spelled out in one place. An added benefit for mortgage servicers is the ability to identify their own processing issues through the integration. They can build their own business rules to aid in identifying exceptions and streamlining traditional work orders. Auditing and billing are also completed more accurately, with the risk of error significantly decreased.

An important aspect of the mortgage servicing industry business ecosystem is designed to provide effective property preservation services to defaulted and vacant properties across the country. The idea is to protect servicers’ assets while eliminating blight in communities.

As the industry continues to change and evolve, field services companies have to be proactive in handling challenges and innovative in developing more streamlined processes. Technology is always at the forefront of innovation. From mobile devices changing the face of field services to integrating internal systems with the other entities in the ecosystem, mortgage servicing’s field services partners continue to identify ways to increase efficiency and quality in the property results they provide.

A fully automated and integrated workflow system helps build the best business ecosystem.

George Mehok is chief information officer for Safeguard Properties. He can be reached at george.mehok@safeguardproperties.com.

Source: Servicing Management (Building the Best Business Ecosystem [pdf])

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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 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.

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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.