Joe Iafigliola Reveals Vendor Management Best Practices in Property Preservation

In its December issue, Servicing Management published an article authored by Safeguard’s Joe Iafigliola, vice president of vendor management, titled Vendor Management Best Practices In Property Preservation.

Vendor Management Best Practices In Property Preservation
Building a trained and qualified vendor network is core to a property preservation firm’s success.
In the property preservation industry, the tens of thousands of vendors who inspect, secure and maintain vacant and abandoned properties are critical partners to protect the value and condition of those properties and the neighborhoods and communities around them – and to minimize the financial and reputational risk that mortgage servicers face.
Various studies over the years have noted that the presence of a vacant property in a neighborhood can negatively impact surrounding home values by tens of thousands of dollars – not to mention the cost to communities resulting from reduced tax valuations, and the added burden on city services to address crime and nuisances associated with vacant properties.
Additionally, mortgage servicers and the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that back mortgage loans are more focused than ever on compliance with municipal and state vacant-property ordinances, regulatory requirements and guidelines. Failure to secure and maintain vacant and abandoned properties in a timely manner increasingly results in significant fines and penalties and harm to an institution’s reputation in the community.
Finding excellent vendor partners, evaluating their capabilities, training them on regulatory guidelines and industry procedures, monitoring their work to assure quality and compliance, and providing them with industry-leading tools to perform their jobs at the highest levels of quality and professionalism are critical to a property preservation firm’s success in protecting properties, neighborhoods and communities.
What follows are proven methods for building a trained and qualified vendor network, based on our company’s experience.
Recruiting and screening
The overall system of vendor management, while utilizing tools, technologies and the most effective business processes, ultimately relies on people and relationships. The best source for identifying and recruiting new vendors is a property preservation company’s existing vendor network.
Property preservation companies are wise to encourage organic growth within their vendor networks. Vendors who perform at the highest levels of quality and timeliness and who understand what it takes to be successful in the field are the best referrals for recruiting new vendor companies – and the best candidates for expanding their own businesses across larger regions.
Key to this strategy is clearly communicating the opportunities, providing a thorough and clear business application process, and utilizing capable professionals to work with vendor companies to develop an effective business plan for expanding their operations.
Outreach to recruit prospective vendors also is critical, as relying on organic growth may not be sufficient to meet the demands for inspecting and maintaining properties in every geographical region. Maintaining an active profile and presence on social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn can be an effective tool to identify prospective vendors. Also effective are traditional business networking activities through local chambers of commerce and Better Business Bureau offices to generate potential leads.
Another important component in the recruitment process is diversity, because a network that reflects and is sensitive to the diversity of the community in which vendors work will be more successful and effective. Therefore, we seek to identify vendor companies that demonstrate diversity in ethnicity and gender, as well as provide opportunities for military veterans and people with disabilities.
Regardless of their origin, every lead must be carefully and completely screened. A rigorous and thorough screening protocol based on characteristics of the most successful vendors provides a strong benchmark to predict likely success in prospective vendors. Among these are the vendors’ experience in the field service industry, the manner in which they perform their own internal quality controls, their track  record in delivering a quality product and their levels of capital to sustain them through the business cycle.
The majority of leads do not make it through this screening process. Candidate companies that pass the initial screening move to the next step: the qualification process.
Vendor qualification
After an initial screening, qualification experts more thoroughly review each vendor candidate to better understand the vendor’s business processes, organizational structure, operation, staffing, experience and quality control procedures to assure that they have the depth, business knowledge, equipment, people and experience to meet timelines and quality standards.
At this point, background checks are performed on the principals and any individuals within the vendor company who sign required documents.
To qualify as a network vendor, companies also must carry appropriate insurance coverage. Those lacking sufficient coverage are referred to brokers who can help vendors understand the unique insurance requirements of the field service industry and help them obtain appropriate coverage to protect their own companies, their clients and their field service partners in the event of an issue.
Onboarding and training
Once vendor companies have demonstrated their qualifications, passed required background checks, and met insurance and other requirements, they can begin the onboarding process. This consists of classroom training and field training to become credentialed.
The onboarding process utilizes an eLearning platform developed by local universities. Principals of the vendor company must complete a curriculum that begins with an understanding of the work-order process, including how work orders are received, updated and submitted in a work-order submission portal. Access to the learning portal also is given to a vendor’s quality control leaders, crew leads and any other individuals at the vendor company who wish to complete the curriculum.
The learning curriculum is broad and deep. It includes videos on virtually every aspect of inspection and maintenance in the field, from how to determine the occupancy status of a property – to the proper procedures to perform a lock change, winterize plumbing or secure a fence. Offering training through a distributed eLearning platform has enhanced the quality and participation levels among vendors, as it allows vendors and their crew members the flexibility to take the classes to meet their schedules. It also provides an audit trail so that the field service company can track and monitor participation levels to assure that all training is completed.
After the completion of the onboarding training curriculum, new vendors move to the field work phase to receive credentialing. This is a probationary period during which each work order given to the vendor is monitored by a member of the vendor management team with expertise in credentialing. Credentialing experts offer comprehensive hands-on training and work with vendors one-on-one to assure that they understand the entire work-order process, from reading and understanding the work order, to updating it in the system and submitting final invoices. Vendors must demonstrate that they have completed a set number of work orders correctly before they can become fully credentialed.
An important component of credentialing is that it is “event-based,” not “time-based.” Depending on the geography and volumes, vendors may meet their requirements to complete work orders to expected standards in weeks or months.
As part of the credentialing process, quality and performance goals are also established, and each vendor must meet these goals to successfully graduate from the credentialing program. Once the vendor graduates, the field quality representative in charge of the vendor’s area will be notified. That field quality representative will continue to inspect a sampling of the vendor’s completed work orders, meet with vendors at their offices and continue to review their business processes, particularly quality control procedures.
Field quality representatives have ultimate responsibility for the quality of vendors in their areas. They are assessed using a scorecard that measures their vendors’ compliance with work orders and the quality of the properties they worked on.
Quality assurance
Training does not end when a vendor becomes a credentialed member of the network. Rather, it is ongoing. Vendors and their crews have continuous access to the eLearning curriculum to review training materials and best practices and receive updates to requirements, processes and procedures.
Additionally, on an almost-weekly basis, field quality representatives conduct field training sessions in their areas on best practices for services such as landscape maintenance, winterizations and monthly interior inspections to identify active water leaks and other potential issues.
In fact, the field quality leaders in each of the 64 geographical regions are critical to assuring that vendors meet specifications and standards. They own the quality results delivered by vendors and collectively perform thousands of quality inspections each month to assure that vendors are performing to required standards. These include accompanied field visits with vendors; unaccompanied property visits to check up on work performed; and discussions with owners, crew leads and quality control leaders at vendor companies. Vendors are audited, as well, on their compliance with company policies and procedures, such as those requiring that all vendors perform background checks on their work crews – both employees and subcontractors who perform work at properties. Scorecards and “heat maps” are developed to evaluate and visually plot the performance of vendors in each market, reflecting trends in quality both for vendors and the field quality representative responsible for a particular area.
Extending the reach of the field quality control team is a separate team of 20 analysts who utilize a property inspection network to conduct third-party reviews of work completed. These analysts compare the results of the inspector with those submitted by the contractor who performed the service. If discrepancies or inconsistencies are found, appropriate actions and follow-up are taken. These can include anything from requiring additional training, to taking disciplinary action. Each month, thousands of third-party follow-up inspections are performed. The results of these inspections, as well, are consolidated into scorecards and heat maps, so that vendor performance can be monitored and improved on an ongoing basis.
Orchestrating a comprehensive vendor recruitment, training and management process delivers value, not only to the organization, but to the mortgage servicing industry and the communities in which vacant, defaulted and foreclosed properties exist. A strong focus on compliance and quality control procedures helps to assure that all parties involved – vendors, property preservation companies, mortgage servicers and investors – comply with all regulations and ordinances. This protects the condition and value of vacant and abandoned properties, upholds the value and integrity of surrounding properties and neighborhoods, and protects the most fragile communities from expanding urban blight.
Joe Iafigliola is vice president of vendor management at Safeguard Properties. He can be reached at

Please click here to view the article in PDF.

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.