Disaster Playbook

January 17, 2018

The secret to being a successful team is being prepared. For professional sports like football, that means updating and studying an extensive playbook where coaches and players keep a record of their plays or a plan of action to learn and memorize for use during a game. Playbooks serve as a mental blueprint or diagram for every player on the field. These plays are extensively practiced and reviewed before being applied during a game, so every player knows what to do when each play is called. They have specific assignments and follow them accordingly.

Like the playbooks created by football teams, the mortgage servicing industry needs to establish guidelines and continuously update them when managing their portfolios following a major storm or disaster. These guidelines will alleviate some of the challenges and answer questions when managing properties both for current loans and those in default. The most recent hurricane season was unprecedented and when coupled with disasters like the wildfires in California, a coordinated strategic approach is necessary to protect properties. Property preservation companies are on the front lines when disasters hit and offer ongoing communication and information before, during, and after a natural disaster. Progressive companies will utilize data and technology to help servicers make better business decisions.

Before disasters strike, mortgage servicers look to their property preservation companies in the field to advise them on the potential path of destruction and which assets are at risk. Doing so helps servicers understand what areas may be impacted so they can prepare for sound, data-based business decisions when ordering inspections and dealing with the impact of a natural disaster.

The first line of defense is communication. Property preservation companies need to engage their mortgage servicing partners with customized, ongoing disaster updates. Researching projected impacted areas, pulling news articles on impending storms or fires, and comparing that information to the servicers’ portfolios is key to providing them with as much information as possible so they can make better business decisions.

Utilizing information from inspectors in the field narrows the scope of properties impacted and can potentially save servicers’ money on what properties actually need attention. Using damage-level mapping algorithms, companies can compare the client’s delinquent and current loan portfolios to the data of which areas were impacted using property information tied to ZIP Code assessments based on damage levels.

But analyzing data does not stop there. Once the disaster strikes, damage assessments need to be updated on a daily basis for the servicers to effectively manage their portfolios. Property preservation companies also need to get a better understanding of how clients want to interact with impacted borrowers with current loans. This is relatively unfamiliar territory for those companies and their inspector networks who typically only complete services on vacant properties. Also, many servicers choose to inspect current Federal Housing Administration loans, but investors do not pay for these additional inspections. Property preservation companies need to work with their servicing partners on billing and whether the borrower will be assessed the cost of the inspections. Currently, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the only investors that will reimburse for inspections on current assets during major storms or disasters.

In addition to understanding the interaction with borrowers, property preservation companies need to be aware of their servicing clients’ objectives and realize that ordering inspections on current loans is a major system change on their side. There is an established system in place for delinquent accounts that sets off a nearly automated workflow. However, that functionality does not typically exist for current portfolios. Another concern is ensuring inspector requests meet requirements for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for both current and delinquent properties to ensure proper reimbursement from the investor.

Some servicers also give allowables for relief orders to assist borrowers if the property is current and occupied and to aid delinquent properties in damage mitigation. This includes things like pulling out carpet before mold growth. Property preservation companies can help borrowers find a contractor who can perform those services quickly.

After a major disaster, it is critical for property preservation companies to have regular conversations with their servicing clients to ensure everyone has the latest information and is on the same page. An effective best practice after the disaster hits is for the preservation company to host industry calls so their staff can have direct conversations with key people in the servicing world.

The purpose of these calls is to provide the latest impact update and assist mortgage servicers on when and where to order inspections to aid in cost control. It also helps in sharing resources and capacities in completing these additional inspections. The call also serves as a way to update servicers on what it really looks like on the ground after the storm. Servicing clients can ask questions, voice concerns, and collaborate in developing best practices to manage these added inspections and services. They can also learn more about the technology, data, and mapping tools that will help them in determining next steps and the course of action following a major disaster.

Technology and data are the key attributes to effective disaster management before, during, and after a disaster. Mortgage servicers are looking to assess the damage to both their current and delinquent properties as quickly as possible. But this is a challenge, especially in cases like Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria last September, when many of the impacted areas were inaccessible because of downed trees and power lines, and washed-out or closed bridges and roads.

Overhead imaging serves as an alternative when property preservation inspectors cannot access properties in areas impacted by disasters. Satellite and airplane flyovers are very expensive and require third-party assistance. The use of drones in property preservation has been a topic of interest in recent years. They served as additional components in information and image gathering after the string of hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and especially Puerto Rico in 2017. Property preservation companies’ inspector networks were able to utilize them as a cost-effective way to perform initial damage assessments.

Utilizing the imagery captured both overhead by drones and through their inspector networks, property preservation companies can overlay it geographically. Client portfolio information and satellite imagery are imported into mapping tools to determine which properties were potentially affected. Information from the U.S. Geographical Survey (USGS) is utilized for information on conditions such as wind speeds and flooding. The servicers use that analysis to address their portfolios and proactively assist their customers.

Mobile technology and smart scripting play an important role in assessing property damage following a major disaster. The scripts can easily be adjusted to ensure inspectors gather the appropriate information and photos. That information comes into the property preservation company’s automated workflow system and the damage is assessed quickly to determine which properties require immediate attention. Servicers are notified of the results quickly and advised on how to proceed.

In addition to delinquent properties they normally service, preservation companies also need to geocode servicers’ properties that have current loans. They typically will utilize longitude and latitude coordinates from the address to identify the property’s geolocation, a process similar to locating and performing services on a vacant or abandoned property. This creates a pin on the map to provide an intricate overlay identifying sectors that are damaged, with data with data sourced from the inspectors’ mobile devices. Property damage is categorized as light, moderate, or heavy and is sent to the servicer to help establish the best course of action. Heat maps are created based on inspection data as a visual aid for servicers, along with custom reports to help assess property damage.

An important thing to note after major disasters strike is that inspection volumes increase dramatically for property preservation companies. In some cases, this means an almost 1,000 percent increase in the number of inspections per month. To prepare, the preservation companies’ systems and infra-structure must be built to rapidly scale up. This also is the case for the preservation companies’ inspector and contractor networks, who face additional increases and challenges when a disaster occurs.

Following the storms or disasters, property preservation companies need to assess the needs of their inspector and contractor networks in that area. They should evaluate capacity, number of crews available, and other resources needed. Often, because those inspectors and contractors in the area of the storms or disasters have been impacted themselves, preservation companies need to reallocate resources—move internal staff or field quality control (FQC) representatives into impacted areas or relocate inspectors from other areas to assist for an estimated 30 to 60 days.

Internal staff members from preservation companies are there to help with business continuity within the existing network when disasters strike. They ensure vendors have what they need in the field, including generators, clearboarding, and cleaning supplies. In Puerto Rico, FQC representatives took satellite backpacks with built-in Wi-Fi to inspectors to help submit inspection results and photos. However, it is almost impossible to prepare for a Puerto Rico-type disaster. The FQC representatives had difficulty finding hotels or condos with electricity and running water. Many of the hotels were using generators that had to be shut down for several hours a day for maintenance. While in Puerto Rico, Safeguard’s eight FQC representatives hosted multiple on-site recruiting events for the company’s contractors in the area. They also offered training for current contractors filling in as inspectors and for those who had been recruited.

But all of the added help and supplies are not without an additional cost. Postimpact surge pricing or flexible prices for products or services based on current market demands include the costs that out-of-area vendors incur because they are working remotely and must pay for things like hotel stays and food, and may take extra time for the inspections because they do not know the area very well. Also, the scope of inspection is greater after a disaster or major storm, and there are limited supplies or increases in daily expenses, like fuel, due to shortages.

Several weeks after a major storm or disaster, property preservation companies prepare to complete insurance loss inspections for their mortgage servicing partners. Those borrowers who intend on remaining in their properties typically receive insurance money to make repairs. Property preservation companies complete inspections to verify the progress of the repairs on behalf of their mortgage servicing partners.

Managing portfolios following major disasters is a challenge for mortgage servicers and their property preservation partners. Properties with current loans are particularly challenging because there are no guidelines or rules put in place like there are for vacant and abandoned properties. Questions arise such as, Should inspections be completed during the 90-day forbearance period? What about the initial secure? And will the investors reimburse for inspections on current assets during major disasters?

The industry needs to establish a disaster playbook to address these complex issues and to be proactive before disasters hit. This serves as a good opportunity for investors and the industry to come together to draft formal policies addressing current and delinquent loans beyond standard property preservation guidelines when a disaster occurs. Mortgage servicers and their property preservation partners also need to continue to work with the investors so we are calling the right plays in the event of a natural disaster.

Source: DS News (Disaster Playbook [pdf])



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.