Russ Klein Affirms Vigorous Vendor Training is Necessary to Comply

The February issue of Servicing Management published an article authored by Safeguard’s Russ Klein, assistant vice president of quality assur?ance and training, entitled  A New Compliance Era Requires More Vigorous Vendor Training.

A New Compliance Era Requires More Vigorous Vendor Training

Successful vendor education can help servicers avoid compliance penalties.

For the mortgage industry, non-compliance can be costly. Banks and mortgage companies routinely incur millions of dollars in fines and penalties for failure to comply with hundreds of regulatory requirements. Additionally, to minimize their risks from threats to security and business operations, companies have created their own compliance requirements to protect the security of information, personnel, facilities and other business assets.

To address not only the sheer volume of new requirements, but also stricter enforcement by regulatory agencies, banks and mortgage companies have invested heavily in dedicated compliance departments, compliance officers, risk managers and technologies to monitor, measure and maintain regulatory compliance and compliance with corporate policies. In turn, vendors and business partners serving the mortgage industry must submit to thorough audits to ensure that their processes and procedures comply with regulatory and corporate requirements as well.

The challenge for these vendors is to develop processes that cascade to their own employees and subcontractors to support their clients’ compliance and audit requirements.

For example, a national property preservation company may serve hundreds of clients, each with different requirements designed to comply with government regulations and their own business risk management practices. Serving those clients are hundreds of employees who process and verify work orders on properties in various stages of the default and foreclosure cycle, as well as thousands of contractors who perform inspection and maintenance services on properties nationwide.

To conduct their work, employees and contractors utilize desktop computers and mobile devices in order to remotely access information from their homes and other off-site locations. Security procedures must be in place around all of these, and employees and contractors must be trained to follow them.

Industry guidelines for maintaining properties vary significantly depending on the status of the property. Services that may be performed legally on a property after it has gone through a foreclosure sale and is owned by the bank are vastly different from those that may be done prior to foreclosure, when the property is still in title to the homeowner. Properties have different needs and challenges based on the neighborhoods or climates in which they are located, and local ordinances vary significantly between cities and states.

Training wheels

As a starting point, employees and contractors must undergo training to ensure that the services they deliver comply with industry guidelines, municipal and other government requirements, client specifications, and the property preservation company’s internal procedures.

But training cannot be static, because the mortgage servicing industry is not static. Industry guidelines, government regulations and local ordinances change, as do client policies and requirements.

To ensure that training evolves accordingly and that it helps maintain performance at the highest levels of quality and compliance, a sophisticated approach is essential. The availability of courses must be flexible to accommodate the unique schedules of users.

Furthermore, course offerings must be layered. Some will be required for everyone, such as those covering basic policies and security procedures, while others will be specific to the type of work a contractor or an employee performs.

Some training must incorporate classroom and online learning – though in both online and classroom venues, coaches must be available to address questions and follow-up needs.

New employees and contractors need basic training to teach them to do their jobs, and all will need refresher courses to reinforce knowledge and to provide retraining when policies, procedures and guidelines change.

Testing must be done, outcomes monitored, and improvements made to ensure that training remains relevant and that it contributes to successful outcomes in compliance and performance. Also, random checks of employees’ work and the work of contractors must be performed to ensure that quality remains consistently high.

Measuring progress

The old cliché “what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done” is 100% accurate. If you measure performance and outcomes, you can improve them. Measurement is an essential part of the training process; it is also needed to evaluate, adapt and improve processes along the entire spectrum of services.

Client and internal scorecards must be tied to client service level agreements to maintain client satisfaction and to ensure that timely actions are taken to address issues and problems. Additionally, effective monitoring and measurement protocols must be devised to anticipate and prepare for client audits.

There is another cliché that is spot-on: “information is power.” Field service companies hold billions of pieces of data that we can harness to improve our own operational performance and efficiencies, as well as to help clients make better decisions regarding regulatory compliance and their own risk mitigation practices.

One example is utilizing data to anticipate the potential risks to a client’s property assets in certain markets and communities. By evaluating vandalism and damage trends, vendors can help mortgage servicing clients anticipate the financial impact on their portfolios as part of their asset management and property disposition planning.

By evaluating code enforcement trends in local markets, vendors can work with clients to minimize code violations and the associated fines and penalties that can result from failure to comply with local laws and ordinances.

For example, the critical partners in the data-gathering process are field service companies’ networks of vendors and contractors who collectively visit millions of properties every year. They are the eyes and ears for field service companies and their clients, with first-hand knowledge about the properties themselves, the surrounding neighborhoods, and local ordinances and requirements. By training them to gather nuggets of information, one can build and strengthen data effectively.

The results ultimately speak for themselves. When a field service company can become an effective partner with its mortgage servicing clients to deliver higher instances of “clean” compliance audits, demonstrate effectiveness at protecting the security of information, and consistently quantify improvements in its quality and performance, the entire industry benefits.

Russ Klein is assistant vice president of quality assurance and training at Safeguard Properties, based in Valley View, Ohio. He can be reached at russ.klein@safe¬

Please click here to view the article in pdf.

About Safeguard
Safeguard Properties is the largest privately held field services company in the country. Located in Cleveland, Ohio and founded in 1990 by Robert Klein, Safeguard has grown from a regional preservation company with a few employees  and a handful of contractors performing services in the Midwest, to a national company with more than 1,600 employees. Safeguard is supported by a nationwide network of subcontractors able to perform any requested superintendence, preservation, and maintenance functions, as well as numerous ancillary services in the U.S., the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.



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.