Elevating Emerging Leaders

February 6, 2018

Developing internal talent is beneficial in the evolving mortgage servicing industry

How do you prepare an organization for the future? How can you best address unknown business needs in two years? Five years? A decade? These are interesting questions, especially when you do not know what you do not know about the future and what it will bring.

In reality, there are many things that we must always keep an eye on. Regulations and oversight, advances in available technology, and contraction and expansion of the housing market are just a few within the mortgage servicing industry.

Training and organizational development are vital to the success of any industry-leading organization. It is imperative to maintain a team of learning and developing professionals tasked with addressing educational needs within the organization.


Creating customized training courses for each position is key to effective employee development Each position in the company has a menu of mandatory operational, systems, compliance, procedural and leadership (where applicable) learning materials. Each position also has a collection of required materials to complete and a smaller collection of optional materials closely related to their unique, individual role.

A strategy that can help with the uncertainty of the future is developing the existing talent within your organization. Keeping an eye on the talent in-house is critical to developing a strong organization and building a skilled leadership team. This includes providing customized training, developing industry-based educational programs, leadership development, and identifying emerging leaders within your organization.

This type of training is foundational to each person and his or her long-term success. Each curriculum is reviewed annually and updated so that the most current and applicable material is included.

Everyone learns a specific way. To address as many learning styles as possible, it is important for a company to offer its employees a variety of delivery methods. One of the most efficient ways of delivering the material is by utilizing a multimedia library to accomplish learning goals. Safeguard Properties maintains a library of more than 6,000 videos, an online curriculum of more than 350 e-learning courses designed to educate on a wide selection of topics, as well as more than 200 different classroom and webinar offerings.


Employee development is critical in the mortgage servicing industry, especially for property preservation companies tasked with keeping servicers in compliance with changing guidelines and regulations. Examples of successful employee development strategies Safeguard has implemented include in-house industry training, regularly scheduled mandatory training courses, and tracked learning.

Mortgage servicing and property preservation are such niche sections of the housing industry that there is very little off-the-shelf training content specific to their processes, procedures, and job functions. Therefore, the servicing training content must be created in-house. Our in-house created content is reviewed at least annually and updated with changes in content dictated by the industry.

Regulations and oversight are a considerable concern for the mortgage servicing industry. At Safeguard, regularly scheduled mandatory training courses are implemented to stay ahead of changes affecting how properties are serviced and preserved. All employees are required to complete two phases of annual compliance training, which keep our staff up to date on the updated and evolving rules, regulations and guidelines the industry must implement.

To execute the most effective educational experience for employees and the business itself, all learning needs to be tracked and evaluated on a regular basis through a Learning Management System (LMS). An LMS gives a company the ability to review any individual employee’s progress in real-time, in addition to identifying areas of opportunity for additional instruction. It also helps distinguish those employees who have the potential to become leaders within the company and could benefit from leadership development courses.


Another critical component in the growth of in-house talent is leadership development. To remain at the top of an industry, a company must have effective leaders that understand the business, its challenges, and identify change that needs to take place. From the beginning of their career as key members of the leadership team, the company should provide learning opportunities for both the experienced and inexperienced leader.

Developing those within the organization creates leaders with company and industry history, expertise, context, experience and strong management skills. In a complex and ever-changing industry like mortgage servicing, history and knowledge are extremely important and the key to a successful business.

Similar to the foundational and position-based learning all employees receive, a considerable amount of effort at Safeguard is put into designing leadership development programs that are beneficial to each leader individually. Leaders are constantly exposed to new paradigms and philosophies around all the major components of being an emerging leader.


In many organizations, a person is often put into a leadership role as a promotion because they did well in their individual role. On a Friday, they are doing what they have always done, adding value as an individual contributor. On Monday, they have been promoted and are now leading others. They quickly realize it is more challenging than they anticipated. Preparing these key individuals in advance, before they hit the streets, helps limit their frustration.

Safeguard devotes significant resources to assist internal leaders to become stronger and more effective. We assess and develop key individuals within the organization through a mix of formal and informal development programs, including our Emerging Leaders Program. Senior leadership annually assess all current leaders on two metrics, performance and potential. Those that rank highest in those two arenas are chosen to participate in a year-long program designed to prepare them for the next level of management challenges they are likely to encounter.

Whether it is more or new responsibility, or a new position altogether, the ELP affords the participants the opportunity to work through a pre-determined curriculum of leadership activities, stretch assignments, interactive classes and team building. The participants participate in regular meetings with their fellow program members and discuss current challenges to them and the company.

They have open discussions in a safe environment about challenges they face on all business fronts. They share ideas, experiences and challenges confronting them.

The ELP members also participate in one-on-one coaching on a regular basis with an internal coach who helps them become very self-aware of what their strengths are and how to bring them into play while managing people and processes in a very fluid and dynamic business.


Preparing current and future leaders at all levels makes any company nimble and able to address changes in industries like the mortgage servicing and property preservation industry quickly. These well-trained and developed internal leaders have had the opportunity to explore their strengths and learn new and effective management skills that will pay dividends personally for their entire careers, in addition to being a major benefit for their companies.

Industry knowledge and experience is valuable to businesses navigating through fluid and evolving industries like mortgage servicing, therefore spending time to develop existing talent pays big dividends and sets companies up to meet the future head on.

John Gonos is the director of training and development for Safeguard Properties, the nation’s leading mortgage field services provider. He can be reached at john.gonos@safeguardproperties.com.

Source: HousingWire ( Elevating Emerging Leaders [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.