Joe Iafigliola Sees the Future of Field Services

The June issue of Servicing Management featured an article by Safeguard Properties Vice President of Vendor Management Joe Iafigliola titled The Future is Now.

The Future Is Now

In the field services industry today, fast-changing  advances in mobility and geolocation are molding the future.

In 1989, Universal Pictures released the science fiction comedy “Back to the Future II,” a sequel to the original hit that seamlessly picked up where the original story line left off. Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his friend Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd) have just returned to the year 1985 from 1955 when Doc learns that Marty’s future is in jeopardy.

Ironically, that future is 2015, where the film depicts a world with flying cars, hoverboards, dehydrated pizzas, shoes that lace up on their own and self-drying clothes. And although most of what the movie predicts for the year 2015 is different from what we actually see today, the film did accurately foresee a number of technological changes, such as the increased use of public cameras, flat-screen television sets mounted on walls, the ability to watch six channels at once, Internet video chat systems and the increase in plastic surgery, to name a few.

If we were to go back to 1985, we would see that vendors in the field services industry worked very differently than they do today. They used pen and paper to report findings and Polaroid or roll-film cameras to paint a clearer picture of a property’s condition. The photos would then be overnighted to the field services company. Fax machines also were integral to daily operations. Vendors received and sent their daily work orders via fax. For field services companies, thousands of work orders would be faxed daily to their vendor networks, and just as many completed work orders would be faxed back daily. These completed orders would then be hand-sorted and matched with the coinciding pictures. Whether you were a field services company or a vendor, keeping up with the thousands of faxes going in and out each day, and the photos that literally arrived by the truckload, had its challenges.

Any changes or additional orders would have to wait until the next day because inspectors and vendors could not be reached in the field. All updating would have to be completed at the end of the work day. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that field servicing went to digital reporting through the use of computers and email for orders and photos, changing the way vendors operated and setting the stage for future innovations.

In the field services industry today, fast-changing advances in mobility and geolocation are molding the future, with video capabilities not too far behind. New technologies are emerging every day, with some predicting an increase in automation and the use of robotics and drones.

But do they have a place in the property preservation world? And will they help mold the vendor of the future, or are they just expensive toys?

Next level of mobile tech
One of the most recent and significant advancements for vendors in the field services industry has been the ability to be mobile and update work orders efficiently from the field. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, as well as an improving wireless infrastructure, have enabled vendors to report property findings in near real-time and have saved many vacant or abandoned properties from further deterioration or damage. It also has improved the quality of results received from the field. Each vendor and its crew needs to be equipped with a smartphone or mobile device with a 4G connection in the field to succeed in the field services industry today.

Currently, inspectors and vendors follow smart scripts on those mobile devices that ask specific questions about the property as they walk through and document what they see. The vendor of the future will use the next level of smart scripts when completing work at a vacant property. Scripts will be personalized to a specific work order’s series of tasks that conform to specific investor and client guidelines and alert vendors to state and local regulations, in addition to any nuances based on loan type or allowables. Property-specific conditions, events and history will directly play into the way we assess issues and preserve homes. This increased level of real-time oversight will translate into an even higher level of quality and compliance with those specific guidelines and regulations.

In addition to smart scripts, today’s mobile devices have allowed vendors to take photos at properties and send them in near real-time. As storage and transmission of those digital photos become cheaper and mobile device manufacturers continue to improve the camera’s functionality, quality photos are being submitted to field services companies and their mortgage servicing clients with higher resolution. This is important in giving an accurate view of the property’s condition and clearer evidence of any damage present.

Industry veterans predict mobile video will become an important tool for the vendor of the future to use as a way to tell a more three-dimensional story about vacant and defaulted properties. Again, advances in digital technology and the increasing affordability of digital or mobile storage options are making this a viable option for the vendor of the future.

Field services companies are currently testing the use of video in the field. Although it is unlikely that the technology will serve as a replacement for capturing photos, it can be an effective additional resource when immediate authorization is needed to complete the work.

For example, if a property has an ongoing roof leak that needs to be remediated quickly, vendors can use services such as Facetime or Skype from their mobile devices to show the leak and damage to the field services provider. That company can then patch in the client or investor and potentially secure immediate authorization to mitigate the issue.

The advancements in smart scripts, photo functionality and video all help vendors deliver a higher-quality property condition report to mortgage servicers and investors by providing important visual details and supporting information, further increasing the level of understanding of what is happening at vacant and defaulted properties.

Geolocation and work distribution
Another recent advancement in technology for the field services industry is capturing geolocation or GPS data – longitude and latitude coordinates – attached to photos submitted by inspectors and vendors through mobile devices. That data is continuously analyzed by field services companies after each property visit to ensure vendors are completing services at the correct property and during the proper time frames.

Taking this advancement a step further, field services providers soon will be able to assign work orders using geolocation and GPS technology to identify the vendors closest to a property when an emergency or urgent work order arises, for example. This technology allows work orders to be distributed similar to the way Uber’s ride-sharing service dispatches drivers when summoned by passengers needing transportation.

Field services companies will seek out the closest, top performer in that area and alert that vendor to the new or updated work order. If that vendor is unavailable, the field services company contacts the next-best vendor that is nearby until one is found to complete the work. This technology benefits the vendor in that it saves travel time and money, or what is known as “windshield time.” It also provides incentives for vendors and their crews to perform work at the highest level of quality and service because they will be rewarded with additional work. It also benefits the field services company – and, ultimately, the client – as work orders will be completed more efficiently.

The vendor of the future may see a similar work distribution system put in place for many common inspection and preservation orders. In addition, some field services providers are testing the use of an open order marketplace, where work orders are placed in the system and are up for grabs by the top-performing inspectors and vendors in that area.

This shifts the field services company and vendor relationship from a push environment to a pull environment, where vendors will have an opportunity to grow and pull in more work if they are in good standing. This only applies to those common day-to-day orders that do not require a special skillset or licensing, such as asbestos remediation or roof repair.

Crew management
Crew management is another area where the vendor of the future can benefit from advances in mobile device and geolocation technology. For example, when a main contractor assigns a work order and dispatches a crew to a job, each crew member’s information can be stored in an application on the main contractor’s mobile device, ensuring that background checks and licensing requirements have been verified. And, based on data collected on the device, vendors, field services companies and clients can be certain the right person is performing the right work at the right property.

Crew members or subcontractors also can receive the full scope of the work order and history of a particular property prior to performing the work. The main contractor can choose to eliminate certain aspects of the order, such as pricing, but the primary property information can still be displayed. This helps to give crew members and subcontractors a better understanding of the entire scope of the work to be completed at the property and shares the issues other inspectors or vendors have faced during past visits.

To support the vendor of the future as they maneuver through a rapidly changing industry and regulatory landscape, training and education will become even more important. Learning management systems that embrace technology and digital tools can be conveniently accessed by vendors and present topics that can be easily adjusted to align with the desired knowledge outcome.

For instance, our firm recently launched its own learning management system called the Safeguard Knowledge Center. This password-protected site is accessible via mobile device and contains videos, job aids, checklists, guideline updates and other documents – anything a vendor may need to perform work at a property. The center can even be accessed from the field to provide real-time guidance, if needed.

This is especially helpful to the vendor of the future and its crews. A library of information can be used to build tailored refresher courses or annual training for seasoned crew members as well as curriculums specific to new hires on how to properly complete job functions and follow specific guidelines while preserving properties. This ensures a better quality of work and results will be sent to the mortgage servicing client.

Predictions for the future
Like in “Back to the Future II,” we are witnessing a glimpse into the future through new and emerging technologies. Although some may seem outlandish – like wild predictions such as flying cars and self-drying clothes – others may have some potential in this industry in the coming years:

  • Robotic automation: Automated lawn mowers or vacuum cleaners are a few examples of gadgets that currently exist but are not utilized in the field services industry because of issues with quality control. Manufacturers may perfect this science to allow for more accurate services or, perhaps, enhance them so that they can be controlled remotely through a mobile device or even from the office.
  • Drones: Industries similar to field services are currently experimenting with unmanned aerial vehicles. These gadgets can be controlled from the ground or launched on a pre-programmed route. Vendors potentially can use the geolocation coordinates of a property to send a drone to a property to capture photos or video. This can save time and money by eliminating additional trips to the property.

Drones also can help evaluate damages in difficult-to-reach areas and parts of a property. For example, they can be utilized to identify roofing issues, such as missing shingles or other damages, especially in inclement weather or with steep or clay-tiled roofs.

  • Real-time help button: Vendors completing work in the field often have questions that they need answered in a timely manner. Of course, they can call into their field services provider, but it would be more efficient if they could access a portal on a mobile device and start a live-feed, streaming-video chat with a decision-maker in the provider’s office. Potentially, a client can be pulled into the conversation to quickly authorize additional work or answer questions in real time.
  • Deterring theft/vandalism: As video and mobile technologies become more cost-effective, video surveillance systems can be installed in vacant properties to monitor any activity via a live or streaming feed. This would help deter thefts, vandalism or other property issues, which can potentially cost investors millions of dollars annually. Additionally, wireless motion detectors can be set up at properties to ensure they are secure.

Although no one can be certain where the mortgage servicing and field services industries will be in the next 30 years, field services companies need to be prepared for the future by equipping their inspectors and vendors with the latest technologies and systems. Technology will prevail, and companies willing to invest in the latest and greatest will succeed. It is up to the industry to embrace innovation and the disruptive technologies that can revolutionize the field services industry.

Joe Iafigliola is vice president of vendor management for Safeguard Properties Inc. He can be reached at (800) 852-8306.

Please click here to view The Future is Now [pdf].

About Safeguard 
Safeguard Properties is the mortgage field services industry leader, preserving vacant and foreclosed properties across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Guam. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Safeguard provides the highest quality service to our clients by leveraging innovative technologies and proactively developing industry best practices and quality control procedures. Consistent with Safeguard’s values and mission, we are an active supporter of hundreds of charitable efforts across the country. Annually, Safeguard gives back to communities in partnership with our employees, vendors and clients. We also are dedicated to working with community leaders and officials to eliminate blight and stabilize neighborhoods. Safeguard is dedicated to preserving today and protecting tomorrow.  Website: www.safeguardproperties.com.

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CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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.

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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.

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CHEIF INFORMATION OFFICER

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”.

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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.

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Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for oversight of the Control, Quality Assurance, Accounting and 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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AVP, Mobile and Analytics

Jason Heckman

Jason Heckman is the assistant vice president of mobile and analytics for Safeguard. He is responsible for both Safeguard’s mobile development and strategy as well as the company’s data warehousing and business intelligence. Jason oversees the design, development and release of all Safeguard’s internally developed mobile applications. He also oversees the development and delivery of operational and analytical data technologies throughout the organization.

Jason joined Safeguard as manager of mobile in 2012. During that time he led the development and integration of Safeguard’s mobile applications across the company’s vendor network to provide real-time data from the field. In 2014, he was promoted to director of mobile applications and named assistant vice president in 2017.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Jason was the director of application development and business intelligence for Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana.

Jason holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

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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.