Setting the Tone

Editorial
February 15, 2016

Field Services Companies Must Embrace the Coming Evolution in 2016

The mortgage servicing industry is at an interesting crossroads. Still faced with heightened regulations, the industry has shifted its focus to maintaining recovery from the recent housing crisis and evolving its processes to address these new regulations and guidelines. The servicing industry is building stronger relationships and uniform property requirements with investors and communities as another avenue to making the industry stable, including the new investor guidelines being released this year that include suggestions and best practices from servicing and property preservation industry officials.

With this juncture in the housing market, mortgage field services companies also find themselves on the edge of a new era. While much of the scrutiny these past few years has caused those companies to utilize additional time and resources to implement new processes, it also has helped them build better businesses. Through servicing client audits, field servicers were able to find flaws and correct issues. But many went beyond the requirements and also were able to highlight best practices and help make them industry standards.

National field services companies, like Safeguard Properties, have the opportunity in 2016 to set the tone for the evolving servicing industry through investments in new technologies, taking advantage of the collaboration between investors, servicers and communities by implementing preservation standards that mirror neighborhood benchmarks, and by utilizing new investor guidelines set to be released this year that will help them protect and preserve properties at a higher level.

INVESTING IN NEW TECHNOLOGY
Although video has been around for some time, it was not until it was made available on mobile devices that the field services industry really began examining its use in the field. Having the ability to report damages and receive bid approvals in almost real-time provides a more efficient way of mitigating issues and implementing additional quality controls. And although video will never replace photo documentation, it will be utilized to provide more detailed evidence of damages and issues at properties.

Our company has been testing video’s feasibility in the field for some time and will release applications for their inspector and contractor networks to utilize it day-to-day this year. The ultimate goal with video is for inspectors and contractors to be able to utilize it in real-time, like Facetime or Skype, while in the field.

In the meantime, the tests show that video and audio services can be recorded utilizing a mobile device and streamed back to the company. An employee receives an email that the video is ready for viewing and can call the inspector or contractor while still on-site at the property to discuss any issues or damages.

Since the video is streamed from the contractor’s device, storage is not necessary and will not create additional storage costs for them. That video can be sent along to clients for bid approvals and the work can be completed within the same day.

Geo-location technology will continue to serve as a quality control measure for determining the correct property location. Through the use of mobile devices and applications that collect meta data, including the longitude and latitude of where photos are taken, field services providers know if a contractor or inspector is at the correct property and can track that information for each visit.

Geo-location technologies also can be utilized to assign urgent or rush orders quickly to contractors working in the field. If activated on their mobile devices, location services can track contractors who then can be notified if an order pops up in their area. This is done so that not only the field servicers, but also its main vendor businesses, have a complete understanding where people are located for quality control and accuracy. In instances when an escalated or rush order needs completed, field services companies can rely on geo-location services to identify where contractors and their subs are located for more efficient deployment. Those closest to the property get the rush work order.

In addition to collecting longitude and latitude data, field services providers, through the use of mobile devices, also collect millions of points of other property information. For those national companies that service properties in all 50 states across the country, that data is rich with information that can be utilized to predict certain outcomes or behaviors in neighborhoods and communities across the country.

This is called predictive analytics, which aids in explaining a property’s story to investors by identifying neighborhood trends — like how many homes need windows boarded or what is the frequency of vandalism? Knowing this information in advance helps field servicers and their servicing clients determine if services need to be ramped up or altered in any way to fit the neighborhood’s needs.

In setting the tone for 2016, mobile services and devices will remain the king of efficient and accurate property preservation. It seems like a million years ago companies were cleaning off fax machines filled with work orders and receiving multiple delivery trucks a day filled with thousands of printed photos.

In just a few short years, mobile has opened up all of the possibilities outlined above in addition to providing additional layers of quality control. With the click of a few buttons, field services companies can ensure the right person –
one who has a completed background check and correct licensing on file – is at the right location and for the proper amount of time – time stamping shows the time and date captured for each photo submitted.

NEIGHBORHOOD STANDARD
Residents in neighborhoods across the country have been touched in some way by the foreclosure crisis. Median incomes, economics and location do not matter. Every community has felt its devastating effects. But those residents do not know the difference between vacant and abandoned properties in presale and those in REO, or post-sale, status. All they see is what can potentially be an eyesore or blight in their community. That’s why in 2016 it is encouraging to see more uniformity between city regulations and investor and client guidelines. It shows progress and promise that these entities also are raising the property preservation bar in all stages of default.

Because it has been proven that REO properties receive fewer municipal code violations, many servicers have begun the process of ensuring all properties are serviced to fit the neighborhood’s standards in both presale and REO. This includes completing additional services like repairing gutters and power washing the siding and driveway – issues that may have been potential municipal code violations in the past. It also includes mulching and weeding flowerbeds not just for an REO
property, but in pre-sale as well. As those chosen as the boots on the ground, it is the responsibility of field services companies to ensure these properties are reflecting that community standard to continue to eliminate blight across the country.

NEW INVESTOR GUIDELINES
Late last year, several investors released new inspector guidelines, outlining many of the best practices already implemented at field services companies. What is evident in these updated guidelines is that investors are seeking more information on their vacant and abandoned properties and those entering the properties to perform services.

The investors’ request for more information is not only evidence of the heightened scrutiny the mortgage servicing industry will continue to face in 2016, but also an encouraging move that shows an increased interest in protecting these properties. This longer list of oversight helps field services companies sharpen their quality controls as they aim to comply on behalf of their servicing clients.
 
The highly-anticipated U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) property preservation guidelines will be released this year. There is a lot of speculation surrounding this release, but the hope is that these guidelines mirror best practices, processes and quality controls already established by the field services industry. Again, there is a need for uniformity in things like vacancy definitions and compliance with local codes and ordinances without having to seek additional bids. These ideals will aid in improving conveyance performance by putting in place allowables for common city requirements and ordinances. It maximizes efficiency as approvals are received up-front to comply with ordinances and property issues then can be mitigated quickly.
 
These guidelines will make a huge impact on the industry in 2016, and it is predicted that they will not only help create more uniformity in property preservation but also a better endproduct for neighborhoods and communities across the country.

The future looks a little brighter for mortgage servicing and its field services partners. This “new normal” in the housing industry is settling in as all parties come to terms with embracing the changes and new regulations. Utilizing new technologies, preserving properties to neighborhood standards and embracing new investor guidelines will have positive impacts on the industry and those businesses that are willing to accept the evolution in 2016.

Source: DS News (Setting the Tone [pdf])

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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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CHEIF 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, 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.

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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, Mobile and Analytics

Jason Heckman

Jason Heckman is the assistant vice president of mobile and analytics for Safeguard. He is responsible for both Safeguard’s mobile development and strategy as well as the company’s data warehousing and business intelligence. Jason oversees the design, development and release of all Safeguard’s internally developed mobile applications. He also oversees the development and delivery of operational and analytical data technologies throughout the organization.

Jason joined Safeguard as manager of mobile in 2012. During that time he led the development and integration of Safeguard’s mobile applications across the company’s vendor network to provide real-time data from the field. In 2014, he was promoted to director of mobile applications and named assistant vice president in 2017.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Jason was the director of application development and business intelligence for Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana.

Jason holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

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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.