Kathy Cogan Explains how Safeguard’s Management Training Delivers Results

On August 1, MortgageOrb published an article authored by Safeguard’s Kathy Cogan, assistance vice president of account management, titled Safeguard Properties’ Management Training Program Delivers Results.
Safeguard Properties’ Management Training Program Delivers Results

Successful companies are good at not only hiring talent but also developing strong employees into effective leaders. According to the American Society of Training and Development, U.S. businesses spend more than $170 billion on leadership-based programs annually.

But in little-known industries, such as mortgage field services and property preservation, few, if any, outside programs offer industry-specific courses to help build the technical skills and field knowledge that employees need as part of their leadership development. As a result, these industries must supplement leadership development with creative alternatives.

One alternative is a concept called rotational training. In a rotational training program, promising leadership candidates learn a business hands-on by working in virtually every department of the company. They cycle through a process that allows them to experience how business decisions affect different departments within the company, and they develop a better understanding of the industry as a whole.

Safeguard Properties’ rotational training, called the Management Training (MT) program, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Since the program’s inception, many leaders have emerged to serve as role models for new leaders at all levels, and to support the company’s growth and expansion.

The Concept

In 2003, Safeguard was a 13-year-old company that was consistently growing and hiring. Typically, new employees would receive a company overview and ongoing training related to their departments and positions. But company executives realized it would take these new employees a long time to learn all aspects of the business, and even then, their knowledge would be limited to only things that affected them in their day-to-day job functions.

Safeguard wanted to design a training program that would eliminate departmental silos – a program that helped identify employees’ strengths, groomed them for leadership positions, and provided them with a deep understanding of the company and the field services industry. The company also wanted a program that would give employees a better understanding of the inter-relationships between departments.

For example, potential leaders who work in property preservation and deal with properties in pre-sale need to understand the potential impact their decisions will have on those same properties when they reach the post-foreclosure sale status, or the real-estate owned (REO) stage. Because the foreclosure process can take a long time – sometimes up to two years in certain states – property conditions can deteriorate no matter how well a property is being maintained. A decision not to repair a minor roof leak may become a costly mold issue in REO. An effective leader must understand these issues and guide the client to make the best decisions to uphold property value and condition.

Program Overview

The MT program begins with hiring college graduates and identifying strong candidates to fill positions of influence within Safeguard. The candidates spend a year learning about each department or service line and experiencing all job functions – giving them a better perspective of the company and the field services industry as a whole.

Each department rotation lasts six to 10 weeks, depending on the needs of that department or service line. MT candidates are exposed to extensive department-specific training and must successfully complete all job functions, in addition to participating in special projects and presenting ways to streamline business procedures. The MT candidates must learn how every position functions, how it fits into that department and, ultimately, what role it plays within the company.

Areas of training include property preservation in pre-sale, customer service, vendor management, REO, hazard claims, community initiatives, marketing, quality assurance, client resolution, estimates and repairs, inspections, accounting, and all other departments within Safeguard.

Once the MT candidates complete training, they must perform each job function. This can include updating, customer service or handling client accounts. Before candidates can move to the next job function, they must pass a quality control test performed by Safeguard’s quality assurance team.

Additionally, MT candidates are assigned special projects or asked to analyze best practices and procedures and propose new solutions. They also contribute to Safeguard’s vendor and industry conferences.


MT candidates are assigned a mentor from a committee that manages the program. That committee is made up of executives and members of senior leadership. The mentors offer candidates better perspective on the Safeguard culture and guide them throughout the rotational training process.

MT candidates also function as mentors themselves. Once they complete the program, they become role models to other staff in the departments they join. They provide support and offer guidance to other employees based on the extensive knowledge and experience they gained from participating in the MT program.

Client Interactions

One of the most important aspects of the MT program stems from the core of the Safeguard culture by focusing on the company’s motto, “Customer Service = Resolution.” Each MT candidate is assigned a client to interact with to learn to anticipate their needs and address any challenges.

These interactions take place in one-to-one calls between Safeguard staff and their client counterparts and sometimes during site visits to clients’ offices. The calls ensure that Safeguard personnel stay connected to clients. The calls encourage MT candidates to identify client issues and suggest solutions. They learn first-hand the value of good customer service and the role it plays in Safeguard’s success.

The MT program has proven to be very successful for Safeguard for the past 10 years and continues to evolve to support the company’s rapid growth. Today, 15 leaders who have graduated from the program serve in key management roles to direct projects, analyze business procedures, build relationships with clients and provide guidance for other employees. The program will remain one of the company’s most valuable training resources.

Kathy Cogan is assistant vice president of account management for Safeguard Properties, the nation’s largest mortgage field service company. She also is a member of Safeguard’s inaugural Management Training (MT) class and serves on the MT committee.

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: www.safeguardproperties.com.



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.