Mehok Talks About Big Data
The Wall Street Journal released a blog featuring George Mehok discussing Safeguard’s new analytic engine.
Property Firm Changes Business Model with Big Data
As a seemingly endless debate over the value of Big Data unfolds, CIO Journal caught up with George Mehok of Safeguard Properties to talk about the deployment of the property inspection company’s new analytic engine—which he says has been the foundation for an entirely new operating model.
Mr. Mehok, formerly an executive at Verizon Wireless, is now CIO of Safeguard, in Valley View, Ohio, which helps banks keep tabs on the physical condition of properties after mortgage holders become delinquent or go into foreclosure. Robert Klein, a former New York taxi cab entrepreneur, launched the privately held company in 1990 in a basement office near Cleveland, with just two employees.
Safeguard has changed considerably over the last 24 years. It now has 10,000 workers and commercial relationships with more than 100 financial institutions, including all the major mortgage lenders, according to Mr. Mehok. The business has become much more data-intensive, too. Those mobile workers use phones and other devices to take pictures of the properties that they inspect, which has helped drive an exponential increase in the volume of data that the company uses. At the end of 2013, Safeguard had two petabytes of data, up from one petabyte in 2012, according to Mr. Mehok.
Yet the biggest change, he says, is the way the company uses data, and the way that data has changed the business model. “I think Big Data is going to lead to major changes in the business and help lead to better decisions,” he said.
Traditionally, the company sold clients spreadsheets that listed the addresses of properties that might be the most at risk of an upcoming weather event, such as a storm. The client could have the property boarded up, or if the report occurred following an event, have it inspected.
That began to change in January, when the company launched a new analytic platform that is available over a private cloud to all of its clients on a trial basis. The geospatial mapping tool integrates data from a variety of sources, including weather reports and warnings about impending events such as floods or earthquakes. The tool, developed by Critigen, in Denver, is available to clients on a self-serve basis over the Web, and in real-time. The new system “is much faster and more precise,” Mr. Mehok said. Several dozen institutions have given it a try, but there are hundreds of individual users, because information can be distributed broadly within a client company.
The change in the operating model is only the first order of change, though. Looking ahead, Mr. Mehok predicts that the analytic engine will help Safeguard’s clients develop new products and services. For example, the mapping tool can help clients visualize the location of properties in relation to bank branches, something that isn’t obvious when that information is stored in traditional databases. “Our clients will be able to leverage the geospatial mapping to serve their own customers better,” Mr. Mehok said.
Given that the trial is only one month old, it’s still too early to know what sort of financial impact the technology will have on Safeguard or its clients. But one thing is clear: data is leading to basic changes in the way that they go to market.
Please click here to view the online blog.
Crain’s Cleveland Business blogged about Mehok’s interview. Please click here to view.
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.