Field Services Evolution

Safeguard in the News
August 4, 2015

IN THE FIRST QUARTER OF THIS YEAR, THE TOTAL NUMBER OF FORECLOSURE FILINGS IN THE U.S DROPPED TO THE LOWEST NUMBER SINCE 2007, ACCORDING TO REALTYTRAC. BUT THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF DAYS IT TOOK TO COMPLETE A FORECLOSURE ROSE TO A WHOPPING 620 DAYS NATIONALLY, AND IN SOME STATES FORECLOSURES TOOK LONGER — MUCH LONGER.

In New York, the dubious winner of the nation’s longest average time to foreclose, it took an astounding 1,475 days to complete foreclosure. That’s more than four years. Which is why proper-ty preservation companies, despite a lower number of foreclosures overall, are still vital in managing risk for lenders. A lot of things can happen to a property in 1,475 days.

And as the field services industry continues to ride the REO boom and bust cycle, it’s under increasing scrutiny from in-vestors, communities and regulators to deliver top-tier service within strict guidelines. Companies have adapted to this new REO environment by finding innovative ways to do the import-ant work of protecting and maintaining assets.

THE RISE OF MOBILE
Investors today crave certainty, the kind that results from lots and lots of data points. To provide that degree of assurance, field service providers have taken data collection to a whole new level. Forget the stereotype of a field servicer walking around with a clipboard and a camera. Just in the last 12 months, the explosion of available real-time data is driving a new model of field servicing that would have been unrecognizable in the past.

For example, last year Safeguard Properties received about 100,000 photos from the field every day — an impressive num-ber. Today, with 94% of its vendor base using mobile to submit information, that number has climbed to more than 1 million photos a day, a 900% increase.

“Mobile has been an unbelievable factor in delivering richer and more timely data,” said Alan Jaffa, CEO of Safeguard Properties. “A lot of our clients get hourly or even more frequent data feeds from us.”

The speed at which servicers can get information from their vendors is a key factor in quality control, Jaffa said.

“Investors today are reviewing property information with a fine-tooth comb. The entire review process has been extended, and investors are not looking to wait for weeks to get that information,” Jaffa said. “Our vendors are under scrutiny to get that information back quickly.”

With mobile apps, Safeguard vendors are able to share data almost instantly, and pictures and property specifics are reviewed during the same day.

“There’s so much detail we now provide to our clients. Years ago, having photos of every single bedroom wasn’t as critical, but today it’s not just photos, but smart scripts that ask all the right questions to get the most up-to-date position on the property,” Jaffa said.

That kind of information is an essential ingredient as lenders manage third-party vendors. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has made it clear that financial institutions carry all the risk when it comes to what they outsource, and field service providers are keenly aware of their role in compliance.

For Ron Briggs, senior vice president of business development at Aspen Grove Solutions, the only way to comply is by lever-aging technology to deliver what investors and regulators are looking for. “Technology is the great enabler when it comes to introducing predictable, repeatable and auditable processes that satisfy business and regulatory needs,” Briggs said. “We provide our clients with the ability to know who was at a property, when they were at a property, and through the use of a standardized criminal background check, the person’s pattern of past behavior.

“Through the use of our technology, our clients can measure the quality of the vendor’s work, which can lead to additional training so vendors are equipped to do the best possible job. As such, technology, the business, and regulatory needs are aligning to provide line of sight from work assignment to service delivery at the property.”

The rapid transformation into a tech-centric model has shifted the role of the front-line workers in field services. As more people review the files, there is more emphasis on accountability. But the new model benefits these workers as well.

“Our subcontractors used to spend 12 hours in the field, and then spend another four hours rekeying that information,” he said. “Technology has enhanced the way they do business and they love it.”

The evolution of the way properties are secured and maintained comes at the right time for communities that are demanding greater transparency into the process.“

Just to protect and preserve a property may not be enough anymore. How we did that five or 10 years ago looks very different than what we need to do today,” Jaffa said.“

Cities across the country are not interested in hearing who owns the property — the fact that the bank owns it isn’t the issue. The issue is that this property has to be maintained like any other property on the block.”

By maintaining properties to community standards, communities are improved while assets are protected and preserved. It’s a win-win for all parties. “Technology is the great enabler when it comes to introducing predictable, repeatable and auditable processes that satisfy business and regulatory needs.”

Meeting the Biggest Challenges in Field Servicing

Alan Jaffa, CEO of Safeguard Properties

What is the biggest challenge in field servicing right now?

The biggest challenge in field services is the ever-changing regulatory environment and scrutiny the mortgage servicing industry is under. This scrutiny not only affects mortgage companies, but cascades down to field services companies and our vendors and employees.

Although these new regulations and laws create a challenge for us, they also provide opportunities to partner with clients and continuously improve processes and procedures. We must take additional measures to ensure our mortgage servicing clients remain in compliance.

We are committed to investing in new technologies, and new regulations encourage further innovation in that regard. It also includes additional controls for our vendors in the field by using geo location technology and smart scripts in Safeguard’s proprietary mobile applications. Soon this may include video, as we begin testing its use in the field. The results are improved quality and efficiencies for us, our vendors and clients.

Additionally, Safeguard is increasingly participating in both annual and periodic audits with clients, largely as a result of regulations now requiring increased monitoring of service providers. These audits are beneficial, and Safeguard uses them as a way to partner with our clients to identify areas for improvement. We also conduct our own internal audits to ensure we are meeting our clients’ expectations prior to their requests for information, in addition to conducting audits on our vendors to ensure quality and efficiency.

Safeguard just celebrated 25 years in business. What has been key to thriving for so long?

Our success and reputation in the mortgage field services industry are built on a fundamental commitment to customer service, a sense of responsibility for the work performed, and a clear and comprehensive understanding of the investor and insurer compliance issues that affect the mortgage industry.

Founder Robert Klein’s vision was to create a company focused on client satisfaction through business partnership. He created “Customer Service = Resolution,” which is more than a motto. It is a promise to our clients that we will deliver services at the highest levels of quality in the industry.

We are committed to building and sharing industry best practices to protect the integrity and value of our nation’s housing stock, to deliver the most efficient and cost-effective services in the industry, and to work on behalf of our clients to comply with all regulatory requirements.

Safeguard also is committed to providing innovative solutions through our investment in new technology. Through mobile adoption by our vendors, investing in data centers and piloting new technology like video in the field, we continue to ensure quality and innovation for the mortgage servicing industry.

What are the consequences of fast-track legislation for our industry and why was it important to create a Fast-Tracking Legislation Resource Center?

Robert Klein has been a leading proponent of the concept of fast-tracking vacant and abandoned properties, bringing the topic to the forefront by fostering meaningful industry dialogue. The Safeguard Fast-Track Legislation Resource Center is a tool to further assist servicers and communities in finding a solution to the vacant and abandoned property issue.

The interactive map features states that have enacted, are contemplating enacting, or have expired/inactive fast-track legislation for vacant and abandoned properties. Information includes a link to the final bill’s text, legislation history, and links to any media coverage of the legislation (if applicable).

An important component to fast-tracking vacant and abandoned properties is the ability to determine if a property is a candidate for the expedited process. To help with this determination, the center also highlights definitions of “vacancy” or “abandoned” within each piece of legislation.

Most importantly, the fast track legislation initiatives around the country are designed to ensure that vacant and abandoned housing stock can be brought back to useful life, thereby minimizing blight in the communities where they exist. Obviously the ability to make that asset available to a family that will care and love that home is so important to eliminating blight, assuming that all steps have been properly taken to ensure that the foreclosure was handled properly within the legislation.

We felt it was important for Safeguard to take the lead and invest the time and resources in researching and consolidating fast-track legislation so that it can be easily shared. Lawmakers and business leaders are searching for ways to rebuild communities and our hope is that this tool will be a useful resource to help stabilize at-risk neighborhoods and stem blight.

One of Safeguard’s community initiatives is to educate municipal leaders about property preservation best practices. What kind of results have you seen with this outreach?

Our intent is to provide an overview of the servicing industry’s best practices in preserving vacant properties.

Creating channels of open communication continues to be the biggest challenge for code officers, yet it is attainable. We created Compliance Connection, an innovative technology solution that connects code officials to the servicing industry. By becoming familiar with banking and servicing procedures, local code enforcement and building officials have been able to identify and communicate directly with the proper loan servicer through this technology. This eases the frustration of not receiving a response to their warnings and violation notices that may have been unintentionally sent to the wrong parties.

Please click here to view Field Services Evolution [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 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.