Initial Delinquency through REO Disposition, A Cradle to Grave Servicing Approach

published in Managing REO Magazine, January 10, 2007 Volume 1, Issue 21

By Robert Klein, CEO
Safeguard Properties?

In recent years, the mortgage default industry has experienced many changes. A critical change that we, and many of our colleagues have seen materialize is the inter relationship between the foreclosure process and REO disposition. Today, we are observing senior and executive servicing managers throughout the industry coming to the reality that final disposition of non-performing real estate assets truly begins with the first delinquency. Best practices have demonstrated that the entire default process is in reality, a continuous flow of interrelated business processes, which allows for continuous and efficient inventory tracking capabilities designed to cost effectively manage the portfolio from initial delinquency to final disposition.? Advances in technology now provide practitioners with the data and reporting capabilities to manage their portfolio proactively.? Today, ?Executives, REO managers, and their staff are able to ?access historical property information that enable them to make decisions timely and efficiently based on relevant and real time data;? even prior to a foreclosure sale.?

For years within many loan-servicing organizations, a virtual and sometimes actual barrier existed between the Foreclosure and REO departments.?This barrier not only impeded cooperation, it also wasted valuable time and contributed to higher losses for the organizations. Foreclosure specialists work closely with their property preservation (P&P) vendors to ensure that their institution’s non-performing real estate assets are being maintained and protected against deferred maintenance, vandalism, adverse weather conditions, and so forth.? When these properties become vacant and/or abandoned, the P&P vendors are also charged with the responsibility of securing them.?Since the P&P vendors inspect these properties on a regular basis throughout the collection and foreclosure stages of default, they become very familiar with property condition, the surrounding market, and property value. The foreclosure specialists also develop an internal information base and familiarity with these properties.? In the past, this knowledge sometimes stopped at the door (or barrier), between the Foreclosure and REO departments.? REO specialists received properties without the benefit of having complete access to information about loan/property history, or even the services that were provided during the foreclosure process.? As a result, many preservation services, like lock changes, winterizations, damage reports, repairs, etc., were actually performed two or more times on many properties.

As the industry has changed, opening the interdepartmental communication channels have led to a direct benefit to loan servicers bottom line.? It’s hard to believe, but in some institutions the staff members from one department didn’t even know how what they did impacted other departments, and vice versa. Today, nearly all default managers agree that communication, cooperation and a collective singleness of purpose is what is needed to improve efficiencies and lower costs in default management.

Field Service Companies have stepped to the plate to provide these institutions with a “one stop shop”; from initial delinquency to final disposition.? With vastly expanded contractor networks, national field service providers, with their specialized P&P personnel, have dramatically improved their ability to complete REO services in timely, consistent and quality manner. These expanded networks enable national property preservation service providers to comprehensively service the lenders’, servicers’, and investors’ properties from urban inner cities, to ultra-rural localities, and virtually everywhere in-between, all across the country;? form initial delinquency through final disposition.

This nationwide service capability is further enhanced by the improved quality control and reporting technologies that these national service providers have developed over the years. Providing repair and maintenance estimates, filing insurance claims (on damaged properties) and so on, are also streamlined in this process. Couple these factors with standardized flat fee pricing structures, greatly simplified bulk billing capabilities, and most importantly, the inherent, magnified accountability that a national service provider must have, and one can easily begin to recognize the myriad of measurable benefits for lenders, servicers and investors alike from this “cradle-to-grave” concept. Over the past several years, several leading P&P service providers came to the realization that overall field services and property preservation should not end with a successful foreclosure sale, but rather could (and should) be carried through all the way to settlement or the close of escrow on REO properties. In a perfect world, one vendor for pre- and post-sale services could be relied upon to ensure “cradle-to-grave” continuity in the preservation of each asset. The cradle to grave concept is designed to maximize efficiency of service, minimize administrative costs and eliminate costly duplication of work. To provide for more effective management of costs, a fixed price “cradle to grave” concept allows the mortgage servicer to more efficiently project costs over the lifecycle of a property. The Industry has realized a number of benefits from this pricing model including, but not limited to:

  • A fixed fee approach to managing and budgeting for initial and ongoing maintenance costs.
  • Improvement in efficiency that dramatically decrease the internal labor costs necessary to order, review and approve bids, and processing invoices.
  • Centralization of responsibility for all property services greatly enhancing communication with realtors, marketing officers, and other vendors.

The major benefit of this approach for mortgage loan servicing organizations is the ability to eliminate duplicative work and associated costs, improved reporting and tracking capabilities, and the acceleration of the entire default process, thereby increasing efficiencies and lowering expenditures.? By centralizing all P&P work, including REO-related services with a national P&P vendor, quality control is improved and efficiency in providing services is increased.? An additional benefit is the direct relationship and continuity of properties maintenance throughout the lifecycle of the foreclosed property.

Many mortgage loan servicing organizations have enthusiastically embraced this all-encompassing approach to property preservation, al?though not everyone in the industry has immediately welcomed the change with open arms.? For example, some real estate brokers, who have traditionally been called upon by REO specialists to provide field services as well as listing, selling, and helping to close sales on REO properties, are sometimes resistant to relinquish control over these services.?

An approach that allows work performed by national field service provider to continue in a seamless fashion throughout the entire life of a defaulted loan, can only serve to benefit America’s lenders, servicers, and investors. Implementing a consistent and properly channeled business process and service workflow from initial delinquency through final disposition will result in decreased property holding times, lower costs, and most importantly, higher recovery on aggregate portfolios of non-performing real estate assets.



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.