Mortgage Servicers Face Daunting, Changing Landscape

On February 20, MBA NewsLink published an article titled Mortgage Servicers Face Daunting, Changing Landscape.

Mortgage Servicers Face Daunting, Changing Landscape

ORLANDO, Fla.–Nowhere in the real estate finance industry has the landscape changed more over the past few years than in mortgage servicing.

“Twenty years ago, most of loan servicing and your interfacing with borrowers took place behind the scenes,” said MBA Chairman-Elect Bill Cosgrove, CMB, here at the MBA National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo. “In the post-crisis world we live in today, the servicing landscape has not only changed, but your role has moved to the forefront of policy discussion and has become incredibly visible.”

“The mortgage servicing playing field has certainly changed dramatically over the past few years. It’s had to adjust not only for companies to conform to the new regulations, but to also remain competitive and viable well into the future,” said Mortgage Bankers Association President and CEO David Stevens. “For example, the top 10 servicers of five years ago are not the same today.  New players have entered the field while some others are expanding, contracting or retrenching.” 

Stevens said mortgage servicers should be congratulated for continuing to provide vital service to customers under the intense scrutiny of policymakers, regulators and media. “It’s been a tough few years for servicers,” he said. “You’ve been inundated with a staggering amount of change born from an ever-changing market and the vast number of new rules, guidelines and regulations from a variety of different regulators and policymaking bodies.” 
 
Little more than a year ago, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its mortgage servicing final rule, which included nine pillars of servicing standards. Final revisions to the rule continued through the year as the January 10 compliance deadline drew near, including rule changes as late as an end-of-October interim final rule whose comment period didn’t close until just 50 days prior to implementation. Additionally, the industry saw no fewer than 40 new HUD mortgagee letters, new guidelines and announcements from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, as well as state requirements. 
 
“All these changes have forced companies to rework policies, processes, controls and systems,” Stevens said. “And you have been left with the crucial responsibility of making it all work for your customers. You’ve dealt with unprecedented regulations, unprecedented updates, but the amount of work you accomplished is also unprecedented. You’ve been buried in implementation, all while striving to provide the highest standards of customer service to borrowers across the nation. Be proud of what you accomplished and how far you’ve come.” 
 
Stevens noted as anticipated, the complexity of these rules significantly added to servicer costs. Direct servicing expenses are up, as well as indirect servicing expenses related to compensatory fees and other servicer penalties,” Stevens said. “There are unreimbursed foreclosure and REO costs, and also the corporate costs of legal, risk management and technology, among others. As you know, these costs are ultimately passed onto the consumer, further tightening the credit box and serving as a drag on the housing recovery…reduced efficiency, the shifting number and focus of servicers, the slow and convoluted judicial foreclosure process, on top of unprecedented regulation, all contribute to a lagging housing recovery.” 

Cosgrove noted in today’s fragile housing market, financial institutions must have the ability to do business and be successful in every aspect of the mortgage manufacturing process. “I believe the long-term viability and success of any company depends on retaining some sort of servicing and/or maintaining sub-servicer relationships,” he said. “But like you, I have deep concerns as to the direction of current public policies and also what may come in the months ahead in terms of real estate finance reform. The regulations in place today have created a significant shift in the servicing landscape. While some companies have contracted or expanded their business in the servicing space, the changing landscape also lends opportunities for new players.”

Stevens said MBA is focused on solving three major problems he said are unnecessarily hindering servicers’ ability to effectively serve borrowers:

  • Debt collection. The CFPB recently announced that it was collecting information to determine if all servicers should be subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in the same manner as a debt collector. “This goes well beyond anything Congress called for under Dodd-Frank, and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of a mortgage servicer–directly contradicting the national servicing standards’ focus on encouraging contact with borrowers,” Stevens said. “MBA recently met with the CFPB on these issues and we are encouraged that they understand the negative impacts of extending the FDCPA to servicers in this manner.”
  • Alignment of regulatory requirements. In addition to the CFPB’s requirements for borrower contact, the GSEs, other agencies and investors have each overlaid requirements for borrower contact, delinquency management and foreclosure prevention. “Agencies seem to be competing to impose the most restrictive and complicated requirements on issues like vendor management, sub-servicer oversight and the management of servicing transfers, unfortunately often without regard for servicer costs or duplication among existing requirements,” Stevens said. “Consequently, servicing today requires juggling numerous, often duplicative requirements, each operating on a separate timeline–in addition to whatever requirements are imposed by the borrower’s state.”
     
    Stevens said nowhere is this misalignment more clear than in the imposition of compensatory fees by the GSEs, noting data show servicers now face compensatory fees not for mistakes or unreasonable delays, but simply as the cost of doing business. “As servicers strive to implement the borrower protections of the CFPB’s national servicing standards and deal with complex, widely variable state rules, it is a mistake for the GSEs to impose unfair fees that punish servicers for enforcing those same protections,” he said. “Fannie and Freddie must update their timelines to reflect the realities on the ground and ensure that the process for imposing compensatory fees going forward is transparent, predictable and reflects the stated goals of the GSEs in imposing them.”
  • Exams and audits. “At MBA, we want you to be prepared,” Stevens said. “Soon, if they haven’t already, federal auditors and CFPB supervisory exam teams will likely be taking up space in your offices. They’re going to review your procedures and processes to ensure compliance with the new federal regulations. While we appreciate the CFPB stating it will provide some leeway in its compliance examinations, you can still be penalized under the rules. And CFPB speeches about its intention to be reasonable in enforcement for good faith compliance efforts will have no impact on private rights of action if something goes wrong.”

Stevens also called on regulatory agencies, the GSEs and states to assist servicers with three simple steps:

  • Clarity. “We need clear, explicit explanations of policies so that we can identify issues and address them effectively,” Stevens said.
  • Time. “We need time to get it right,” he said. “Many of you are ready; some of you are not. The industry needs adequate time to address new rules and regulations so that we can implement these changes more effectively and within compliance parameters.
  • Conflicts. “There are conflicts that exist in the rules and timelines,” Stevens said. “Between the CFPB, the GSEs and various state guidelines, you could think you are compliant with a rule but be out of compliance with a separate rule. We need to sort this out.”

“This is a consumer issue,” Stevens said. “Any confusion that gets place on you gets passed through to the consumer. We need clarity so that we can provide clarity to consumers.”

Cosgrove added that regulators should support policies that encourage further investment in state of the art consumer servicing platforms. “Not policies that reduce the servicing fee, thereby chasing away much-needed innovation, financial institutions and private capital,” he said.
 

Please click here to view the online article.

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.

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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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CHIEF 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 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.

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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, 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.

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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.