Fitting the Pieces Together

November 11, 2016

How to Ensure Success in Third-Party Vendor Recruitment

Named one of the greatest video games of all time by several sources, Tetris has captivated video gamers since the early 1980s with its simplistic and addictive gameplay. Players are challenged to maneuver geometric shapes composed of four square blocks, called “tetriminos,” by moving each one sideways or rotating it by 90 degree units to create a horizontal line of 10 tetriminos without gaps. Once that is accomplished, the line disappears and the blocks above fall closer to the bottom of the playing screen. After clearing a predetermined number of lines, a new level is entered and the tetriminos begin to fall at a more rapid pace. If the stack reaches the top of the playing screen, the game is over.

Although there have been many variations of the game over the years, the basic concept has remained the same. The key to conquering Tetris was to carefully place your pieces in the right order always looking ahead to the next piece to fall while also keeping an eye on the game board. Imagining Tetris’s gameplay, a direct parallel can be drawn between the game and managing a third-party vendor network in the mortgage field services industry. Companies need to recruit the right vendors to ensure they “fit” the requirements and compliance standards for the job. Like placing tetriminos in the game of Tetris, the third-party vendors not only need to be the right fit, but it is also the duty of the field services company to properly prepare them for the field and provide continuous resources to ensure they are successful.

At the height of the foreclosure crisis, new boots on the ground companies (or third-party vendors) performing mortgage field services work exploded everywhere because it was easy to get into the business and make a profit quickly. As the industry recovers from the housing crisis, volume decreases and compliance requirements increase, many of those initial companies are leaving to find other work or to return to their former industries. Finding new qualified vendors can be difficult and traditional methods such as newspaper, word of mouth, and job boards have become less effective. Mortgage field services companies must utilize new methods of attracting new vendors to the industry –beyond the traditional approaches.

One of the best new methods for recruiting qualified third-party vendors is through social media. According to statistics on Facebook’s newsroom page, there are 1.71 billion active monthly users as of June 30, 2016. Of those users, about 66 percent or 1.13 billion log in daily. Other social media outlets such as LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram also have large followings and provide a digital outlet for companies to market to job seekers. Creating a social media presence is not difficult but it does require attention and consistent content to attract followers. Content should be interactive, relevant, and compelling to entice the appropriate audience. To keep the content fresh, post a variety of industry articles, upcoming events, or pictures from past events. Gaining followers to a company’s page helps get the message out to a broader audience and could result in more leads. To quickly increase the number of followers to a page, most social media outlets provide the option of inexpensive paid advertisements that can reach thousands of potential leads in only a short period of time.

Social media outlets offer tools that allow digital marketers to target very specific demographics to ensure that any message is delivered to the correct audience and advertising dollars are maximized. These tools also provide reporting that will assist in determining if the appropriate audience is being targeted and how they are reacting to the message. A well-organized recruiting campaign can generate plenty of leads, but is only valuable if those leads can meet industry compliance standards and satisfy the needs of clients. A rigorous onboarding process is key to identifying the best recruits.

During the onboarding process, a potential third-party vendor should move from a lead to qualified vendor status only if the basic standards are met. Mortgage field services companies that contract with vendors must carefully determine for themselves what those standards should be based on their client and investor requirements. At a minimum, a qualified vendor should present themselves as a viable resource by providing an Employer Identification Number (EIN), photo ID, a valid background check for the principal, and proof of insurance.

Requirements may vary not only by client or investor but also by state. For example, some states may require a vendor to have workers compensation insurance or a general contractor’s license to operate. Those states also may require that mortgage field services companies verify the required credentials before assigning work orders. Companies should consider developing a standard onboarding process that includes the use of a checklist to ensure that all of the required documents have been collected before starting a vendor in the field.

Documentation collected during the onboarding process and throughout the tenure of the vendor should be kept up-to-date and easily accessible by utilizing a centralized document retention system that can track expiration dates and provide compliance reporting. Many document retention systems offer features such automated email reminders to vendors approaching expiration dates on required documents and email form collection that reduces the amount of internal resources needed to track compliance. Well-written processes and consistent policies surrounding the onboarding process help instill a confidence in the client that the vendors working in the field are qualified and well vetted.

Providing content rich resources to new third-party vendors during and beyond the onboarding process is essential to protecting and preserving vacant properties and delivering great service to clients. Prior to assigning work to new vendors, it is vital that they are prepared for the field by providing them with resources that clearly define the expectations of the clients and investors that will be serviced. The vendors’ field crews and office staff must understand the scope of work needed to complete and report work thoroughly. Overlooking this very important step in the onboarding process places the vendor at significant risk of not properly reporting damages, using allowables incorrectly, making multiple trips to the property, and missing important client due dates. These mistakes could lead to consequences for that vendor that could discourage continued growth within the industry. Industry standard and investor requirement instructional videos, field checklists, work flow diagrams, and aids support process compliance of new vendors. Build resources that are flexible and will allow for amendments as the scope of work, rules of engagement, and reporting requirements fluctuate.

To ensure that new and experienced vendors are well-versed in the most recent client and investor guidelines, companies should plan to provide resource materials throughout the lifespan of the relationship. Consider investing in a Resource Management System (RMS) to assist with facilitating and tracking the use of compliance resources. RMS systems automate the compliance process and are excellent for providing analytics, flexibility for the users; mobile delivery of content and some systems offer authoring tools to help with content creation. The RMS system can be utilized from the onboarding phase of a new vendor though the entire lifecycle. Many systems will have the ability to create additional users for vendors’ subcontractors who also can access compliance resources and track their usage. Some systems allow the administrator to push out new compliance resources or updates to registered users while providing version controls that guarantee only the most updated content is viewable to users. In addition to using an RMS system, utilizing e-mail communications and push notifications on mobile devices to inform the supply chain of critical updates to field processes and rules of engagement is key to ensuring the success of third-party vendors. Industry best practices or other helpful information can be funneled through the company’s social media sites, videos, or newsletters.

Conferences and seminars or webinars also provide a channel for communication about guideline changes, field technology improvements, and best practices. In addition, conferences give the vendor network an opportunity to interact and share ideas with each other that will improve their businesses and provide feedback to the service companies. Allowing the boots on the ground to share issues from the field may feel uncomfortable at first but can provide a service company with priceless information that will lead to providing a higher level of service to clients.

Technology is a key resource to directing vendors to completing tasks and collecting essential data about a property. Mortgage field services is a fast-paced industry and the right mobile applications can facilitate speedy results from the field directly to clients. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015 two-thirds of Americans were smartphone users, which means that a majority of vendors are already using their smartphones and mobile applications on a daily basis. There are a number of different applications that are built specifically for the mortgage field services industry and can be customized to accommodate specific requirements or integration to other systems. Third-party vendors utilizing these applications in the field can turn results such as property condition, necessary bids, and supporting photos back to our clients quickly and efficiently. Vendors will enjoy the benefits of requiring less overhead to complete work orders, speed to invoice, and increased work load capacity. Other benefits for the vendors using these applications also may include management of crews in the field, work order routing, and push notifications.

Resource materials and technology unaccompanied with face-to-face communications will likely not be successful. In- field communication is a practical tool that can be used to link client expectations to a real-life application. One effective method to link all the pieces together is for the mortgage field services provider to have a representative walk through the work order instructions of the first order, visit the property alongside the vendor, and then sit with the office staff during the process of reporting the details, providing bids, and the uploading of supporting photos. This helps the new vendor understand how all the pieces fit together and also will allow the field representative to make initial assessment of the capabilities of the new vendor.

Building an effective vendor network is a continuous process of evaluating current vendors and determining where gaps exist. Once they are identified is when the real work begins. Much like the popular video game Tetris, pieces of the puzzle are always falling into the industry’s “game board”. It takes innovation to continue building a network of elite vendors that ultimately provides clients and investors with world class customer service.

Source: DS News (Fitting the Pieces Together [pdf])

Additional Resource:
DS News (Fitting the Pieces web version)



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.



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”.


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.


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, 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.


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.


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.