George Mehok Comments on Technology in Disaster-Affected Areas

On January 28, National Mortgage News published an article titled Even with Few Quakes, Servicers Shaking.  In it, Safeguard’s George Meehok, chief information officer, comments on the role of technology used by field services companies in areas affected by natural disasters.

Even with Few Quakes, Servicers Shaking

WE’RE HEARING that the housing bust isn’t the only thing driving an increase in demand for “field services” like home inspections and maintenance in recent years. Natural disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, also have mortgage servicers scrambling to check on the status of their collateral.

Natural disasters caused more than $60 billion in property damage during 2012, according to CoreLogic. Some estimates have put the property damage from Hurricane Sandy alone at more than $50 billion. (EQECAT, a provider of catastrophe loss modeling services, pegs insured losses from Sandy at between $10 billion and $20 billion.)

Just before Sandy struck, CoreLogic estimated that the Category 1 hurricane would put 284,000 residential properties on the East Coast at risk of damage. But getting a handle on either the number of properties damaged is difficult. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that 346,000 homes in his state were damaged to one extent or another, while 41,000 New Jersey residents remained displaced from their damaged or destroyed homes in mid-January, nearly three months after the storm hit. That’s a big servicing portfolio, or actually a big chunk of a bunch of servicing portfolios.

And it’s not just hurricanes that pose a risk for loan collateral. A record nine million acres were consumed by wildfires during 2012 across the U.S., mostly in Western and Southern states. And a widespread drought in the West and Midwest is estimated to diminish economic growth by $75 billion to $150 billion, shaving between .5% and 1% off of GDP growth. While the drought doesn’t damage property value, a prolonged drought could depress values for farm and ranch land in affected areas.

All that during a year when the country was spared the severity of tornadoes seen in 2011 and did not suffer as much inland, fresh-water flooding as in some recent years. There were also few domestic earthquakes that affected heavily populated areas.

Bad news, of course, sometimes turns into big business for companies that help mortgage servicers manage and monitor collateral and real estate owned assets. So where do servicers turn to find out how much of their collateral has been damaged by a natural disaster and how severe is the damage? The same people they rely on when a borrower defaults on a loan, it turns out: field services companies. And advances in geo-coding technology are making it easier for lenders and their service providers to pinpoint what collateral might be affected when Mother Nature turns mean.

George Mehok, chief information officer at Safeguard Properties, said identifying what properties a client has in areas affected by a disaster and assessing the damage for them is a cornerstone of Safeguard’s business. In many cases, borrowers are still current on their mortgage in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, but the servicer still wants to know what the condition of the collateral is.

“We are the boots on the ground for our clients,” he said.

He said technology from companies such as Google to identify the geographical location of properties is improving, but at this point it isn’t always reliable enough to ensure that inspectors or maintenance crews are at the right home. As a result, Safeguard has employed its own technology and logic in its quality control processes to identify the location of properties.

When a disaster occurs, he said Safeguard can quickly and accurately inform the servicer of what assets may have been damaged. The client can then decide if they want to order inspections or other field services related to those homes. In many cases, servicers want a “FEMA inspection” so they have a better understanding of how their portfolio is affected. While big national disasters like Sandy won’t escape a servicer’s attention, smaller disasters like a local tornado or localized flooding may not even be on a lender’s radar until a field services provider alerts them to the fact that they have collateral in an area affected by a local disaster.

“We can actually tell them where the affected areas are, and we give them a list of all their properties that are in that area,” Mehok said.

But defaults remain the largest source of the field services visits. Marc Hinkle, an SVP at Mortgage Contracting Services, told me that more than 90% of the company’s business is related to loan defaults. Still, when a disaster strikes he said servicing clients want to know what REO or foreclosed property they have in the affected area.

And he said field inspectors can play an important role in helping servicers make sure that insurable claims are handled correctly. In the wake of a hurricane, for instance, there are often questions about whether damage was caused by wind or water, which affects what insurance covers the damage. Real-time photos or video delivered from tablet devices can help servicers manage insurance claims in those cases, he said.

Evaluating damage in the immediate aftermath of a disaster is the first concern of servicers, but in assessing the health of their portfolio, they also need to think about the long-term ramifications as well. A major storm, flood or earthquake can sometimes not only put pending home sales in limbo, but it can depress property values in areas suddenly deemed risky for years to come.

The degree to which a disaster dampens values depends on a long-term basis depends upon the nature of the disaster and how it affects people’s perception of risk. For servicers, a disaster on the scale of Hurricane Sandy may be a factor affecting their delinquency rates for years to come. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the real estate market in lower elevation parts of New Orleans and the surrounding area remained depressed for years.

Ted Cornwell has covered the mortgage markets since 1990. He is a former editor of both Mortgage Servicing News and Mortgage Technology.

To view the online article, 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.