George Mehok Advocates Safeguard Technology

In the June edition of HW Focus, Safeguard’s George Mehok, chief information officer, talks about the INSPI mobile application saving time and promoting quality in an article titled The Most Important Asset.

The Most Important Asset
A raft of new technologies strips days off property preservation work, transforming turnaround times, say field service practitioners

Some have labeled it a gimmick, others weird. Then there are those who claim it verges on evil over perceived privacy issues.

But for players in the field services industry focused on property preservation and getting the job done, the advent of Google Glass may prove quite the opposite.

Speed and cost are at the core of the field service sector, says Eric Miller, executive director at the National Association of Mortgage Field Services. “The old mantra,” he calls it.

Pre- and post-foreclosure inspections. Grass cutting. Snow removal. Trash outs. Window boardings. Swimming pool maintenance. Security checks.

In just a matter of years, the intelligence gleaned on these jobs has gone from notepad and pen plus days between information
delivery, to quasi-real-time video and reporting to mortgage servicers.

So the promise of further reduced delivery times, cost savings and upticks in accuracy holds wide appeal. Google Glass in all its space-agey computerized spectacle glory would represent another rung climbed on the technological ladder, transferring data from smartphones, tablets and computers directly into the view-field of wearers.

Already, smartphone and tablet technology has revolutionized the sector, spawning a slew of advanced applications that firms have been putting to use in a bid to boost efficiency. It’s an advance propelled by the creep of advanced mobile networks and the falling cost of devices like smartphones. Almost everyone owns one, notes Chad Mosley, the senior vice president of business development at Mortgage Contracting Services, a Plano, Texas-based field services firm in the business for 25 years.

There is a lot at stake. Statistics indicate foreclosure inventory is on the downward spiral, but there were 1.69 million as of April, according to Lender Processing Services. The total noncurrent inventory has fallen below 5 million for the first time since 2008, LPS said.

Though it’s not due out until next year, NAMFS, the industry advocacy group which counts servicers, field services companies, contractors and inspectors among its members, has requested a prototype of the Google technology. Miller says a “universal portal for delivery of work and results would allow individual companies to retain their identities while reducing errors and allow the focus to be on those properties that are truly exceptions.”

“Google Glass is similar to the smartphone ability — a single device solution — but with the power to connect to end systems at the site, possibly saving data processing lag, as well as the benefit of flagging issues upon submittal which could prevent return trips,” the former LPS Field Services assistant vice president continues.

For now, processing lags and return trips to properties are among the glitches firms hope to weed out as they put in to practice their new mobile applications.

In February, Ohio-based Safeguard Properties — the industry’s largest property preservationist — rolled out its INSPI mobile application to “improve the efficiency and speed of field and insurance loss property inspections.”

In April, Field Asset Services of Austin, Texas, unveiled its Flexible Mobile Survey, described as an advance on the company’s FAStrack Mobile, a photo management app.

MCS, meanwhile, recently launched two new mobile technology solutions for use in the field: a free proprietary system called MCS Mobility and a third-party-provided app. Mosley sees the tech advances as key to improving delivery time and accuracy.

“Now you have vendors in the field using devices that can inspect a property, upload the results, take photos, QC (quality control) it right there on the spot and electronically transfer that information right into our proprietary system, which then feeds into our client system,” he said.

“So we’re able to get information more timely and we’re able to get more real-time information,” Mosley said. “And then it also improves the accuracy when a vendor or inspector is at a property and is taking photos. They can use some of the geotracking to verify the right location; they can QC their photos right there and upload the results right there.”

In the case of Safeguard, the INSPI technology could strip days out of a reporting process that involves thousands of occupancy inspections per day, says George Mehok, the company’s chief information officer.

On a typical day, they might receive a work order from a servicer to verify occupancy, which would then be sent on to an inspector through the firm’s “intelligent routing system.” In the process, the order is prioritized in order of urgency, with routing instructions carried out by mapping technology.

“But what’s really innovative about this is when they’re completing the occupancy inspection — and in this case let’s say last month it was occupied but this month it’s now vacant — the system will, on the device, indicate if there is a discrepancy between the last inspection and the current inspection to ensure that the inspector is at the right home,” says Mehok.

“In the past, there wasn’t any real-time interaction between the systems, its information and the inspector. Remember, they would have had a white pad and a camera,” he said. “So if, for example, the last inspector reported the property was occupied and it had a two-car garage and this time they report it vacant with a one-car garage, the system will automatically, on the mobile device say, ‘Are you sure this is a one-car garage? Because last month it was a two-car garage.’ The only reason that mobile device can do that is because it is fully integrated.”

Compared to the methods employed before, the new technology boils down to an on-the-spot quality check. That’s huge, Mehok explains. “Let’s take that a step further. In the old scenario, (the vendor) would have taken the pictures and sent the results that night to Safeguard. We would have then reviewed that order because our systems will auto-recognize that there was a two-car garage. So there is no problem. We have internal quality control.”

In the final analysis, Mehok says, the time savings amounts to three days: the first lost because the inspector has attended the wrong property, the second due to the fact another visit is required to verify the correct house and the third is the timelag between re-submission of results and Safeguard’s review. Safeguard plans to extend its tech options with the release of a maintenance version called Vendor Web Mobile, now in beta mode.

Meanwhile, FAS lauds the customization potential of its new technology. This allows the firm, explained FAS President and CEO Dale McPherson in a recent press release about the system, to “move beyond generic work orders and drill down to specific details about a property that needs to be verified.”

Clients, he says, “receive additional value because of the efficiency at which we’re able to operate — days instead of weeks — from creation to deployment of the surveys, including delivery of customized reports in whatever format a client prefers.”

NAMFS’ Miller points out an industry-wide challenge — one that the likes of Safeguard and MCS say they are already surmounting — centers on technology that works across operating system platforms “for Android, Apple, Windows and Blackberry.”

But what if the falling foreclosure number statistics are prophetic? Does an industry that proliferated in tandem with the foreclosure crisis now contracts, with some players seeking alternative revenue streams? The executives are coy.

“Regardless of what happens with delinquency and default trends, pre-foreclosure and post-foreclosure services will continue to be critical processes and FAS will be there providing next-generation solutions with our core real estate service products,” said Paul Carlson, FAS chief operating officer, in a statement.

Mosley, of MCS, is more direct, painting a different picture of the foreclosure climate. “We haven’t seen [a foreclosure wane] in regards to any type of trends in the amount of work. We’re actually seeing quite the opposite. There’s actually more inspections and more property preservation types of services that are being done right now.”

Nonetheless, at Safeguard, Mehok says the same technology advances could be put to use in other “inspection-oriented lines of business.”

At NAMFS, Miller — who speaks for practitioners both large and small — sees diversification as an opportunity to those only plowing the field services furrow. “There is also the reality that some may leave the industry due to a variety of reasons,” he says, pointing to pricing, volume of work and the lure of previous employment or industries as possible exit points. Other opportunities might include consumer loan inspection, construction draw inspections, direct work with banks and brokers, code compliance abatement or even work as simple as handyman services, Miller suggests. “These are some that NAMFS has presented to our membership through our annual conference or webinars,” he adds.

But, as things stand, thanks to tech advances, there are also new dynamics at work, says Miller. He highlights accuracy and auditability.

“By accuracy, I do not mean to imply old data was not accurate, just that there is now an ability to take this to a higher level, for example with geo-coding and video. Geo-coding can provide an increased level of certainty that the correct property was inspected or preserved,” he explains. “Video can more accurately demonstrate the condition of the property and surrounding areas. As far as auditability goes, with the increased scrutiny and regulation, this is the new reality of mortgage field services.”

Still, Miller says new technologies pose challenges, something that would likely steer minds should a device like Google Glass take off in the industry. “Technology does have limitations,” he concedes, “one of which is time to market, and this is magnified in the current state since regulations are so fluid. This challenge has resulted in greater communication within the industry to ensure proper time for implementation of these changes to the various technology systems.”

To view the aricle in pdf, please click here.

About Safeguard 
Safeguard Properties is the largest mortgage field services company in the U.S. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and based in Valley View, Ohio, the company inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, lenders,  and other financial institutions. Safeguard employs approximately 1,700 people, in addition to a network of thousands of contractors nationally. Website:



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.