Safeguard Outlines Key Areas for Protecting and Preserving Properties

Safeguard in the News
July 30, 2021

Source: Five Star Institute

Even in tough times, mortgage field services providers adjust to deliver quality

Protecting and preserving properties is imperative to ensuring communities do not become overrun with blight and properties remain secure. In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, mortgage field services providers were challenged with maintaining these consistent, high servicing standards. As states began issuing stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, they had to address issues in the field as they arose and complete work in areas where it was not prohibited completely.

Now that we are halfway through 2021 and health orders are being lifted in states across the country, mortgage field services providers need to shift their focus on three key areas of their businesses to ensure mortgage servicer portfolios remain secure and protected. The FHA conveyance process, in addition to mitigating book loss while ensuring quality results, and scaling for volume are some areas that would benefit from streamlined processes as properties emerge from forbearance.

FHA: How to Successfully Convey a Property Within 30 Days

The FHA Single-Family Housing Policy Handbook requires a handful of very specific conditions in which the property must be before conveying the loan back to HUD:

• The property is undamaged by Big 6 damages
• The property is secured and, if applicable, winterized
• All insured damages including theft and vandalism are repaired per the scope of work
• Interior and exterior debris are removed, and the property is in broom-swept condition
• The property’s lawn and all vehicles and any other personal property are maintained
• The property has a good and marketable title

Before the foreclosure sale, if your disposition strategy takes the property down the path of conveyance back to HUD, then the goal should become getting the property into conveyance condition apart from debris removal, before the foreclosure sale.

Once the foreclosure sale is held, debris is removed, and the property is ready to convey to HUD. Servicer generated allowable(s) to cure extenuating conditions such as mold, roof, and water reduce the risk of further damage and elongated timelines.

Repairing Big 6 damages concurrent to the conclusion of a hazard insurance claim once the adjustor has been dispatched to the property coupled with an allowable for supplement claims greatly reduces the timeline post-sale.

A Simple 5-Step Approach

Step 1: Initial Secure—Address all conditions pre-sale apart from debris to increase on-time conveyance by a large margin
Step 2: Damages—Identify and document all damages.
Step 3: Claims—Repair concurrent to the claim conclusion proceeding the adjustor’s visit
Step 4: Allowables—Provided for issues such as mold, roof, and water rather than walking away from the property and risking further damage
Step 5: Disposition—Capitalize on an opportunity where gains are possible. (i.e., good property, buy and rehab; offset losses on other properties)

Mitigating Book Loss

Paying for property preservation services but not being able to claim the expense to the insurer or investor is a top concern for mortgage servicers. There are several specific processes that lead to book loss that can be improved.

• Over-allowable requests sent to HUD (MCM) getting denied for non-timely foreclosure: The best practice we have seen is designating a specific point of contact to receive these denials, ensuring clients have a workload system so they can track the open requests to their attorney network. Once the chronology is returned, have someone carefully review, add in servicing details (bankruptcy, loss mitigation activity, etc.) and make sure all time periods are covered. Ensure it is complete before appealing the denial.

• Incomplete assessment at first entry: All liability shifts to the mortgagee upon first entry into the property. You either document it or you pay for it. Safeguard has stood up a practice where we complete a second, independent review of initial secure work orders 45 days after the first review. We are confirming that the secondary processes of bids, appeals, and damages were completed fully and accurately, and revalidating the complete assessment.

• Bid after the fact (BATF): Given all the rules at play and the possibility of having multiple orders open at the same time, it is possible to run over allowable limits unintentionally. We have stood up practices to systemically check investor set limits versus expenditures and proactively launch over-allowable requests to cover the expense.

Scaling for Volume

Over the past few years, there has been a significant downturn in volume, allowing time to adjust business practices and prepare for fluctuations in the market. It also has been an opportunity to adjust processes for the latest crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. Mortgage field services companies have scaled their vendor networks in anticipation of the pending volume. To do so, they have implemented the following processes.

• Streamline Vendor Onboarding Process

– Introduce an expedited vendor program that allows vendors to immediately sign up and access orders same day

– Roll out a quick start insurance program, which allows potential vendors to test working within the property preservation industry before meeting required insurance thresholds/requirements

– Reorganize the credentialing process to get vendors into an active network quicker, while also ensuring that they have the necessary tools and information to succeed in the field

– Partner with a third party to provide background checks for vendors, eliminating the need for them to obtain on their own

• Enhance Technology for Vendors

– Make enhancements to optimize the vendor-facing website
* These changes help the vendors navigate themselves through the onboarding process

– Create an online learning portal to allow vendors to self-learn processes and mobile applications on their own time instead of via scheduled facilitated conference calls

• Increase Vendor Recruiting Efforts

– Partner with new third-party recruiting companies to assist with the onboarding of vendors in areas that have been challenging in the past

– Tap into multiple, innovative new channels to recruit talent across the U.S. and Puerto Rico

x

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.

x

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.

x

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”.

x

General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers 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.

x

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.

x

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.

x

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.

x

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.

x

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.

x

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.

x

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.