Shooting for the Stars

Industry Update
February 20, 2017

These days, the focus on mortgage technology seems to be on the purchase side of the business. And why not? The Mortgage Bankers Association is predicting a steady increase in new mortgage originations in 2017 and 2018. And with an increase in originations, everyone seems to be focused on faster loan closings, online borrower portals, and “rocket” mortgages that compare buying a house to travel at supersonic speeds.

But as purchase volumes increase, so will servicing volume. And in a post-2008 world, servicing mortgage loans has become more than simply a function of paying taxes and escrows. In fact, the servicing sector has experienced many new business challenges—challenges that involve everything from new regulations and data security to how consumers behave online and how they expect to be treated. The challenges impact all parties to the servicing environment—lenders, borrowers, investors, and third parties.

To be sure, the key to solving these challenges from a technology standpoint is infrastructure, or the frame upon which everything is built. Building this infrastructure involves taking four critical steps. They may not seem as glamorous as a ride in a rocket, but servicers that master them can be sure to manage loans with optimal efficiency from takeoff to payoff. 

Security as a Stepping Stone

Make no bones about it—security is the most important thing for servicing infrastructure. Borrower and investor information is sacred to the mortgage servicer, and the technology to keep that information secure is just as important, if not more, than the accuracy in reporting it. After all, if the mortgage industry can’t guarantee that a customer’s financial information is safe, it really doesn’t matter how great the origination went. 

But security is vastly different than it was 10 years ago, when many companies housed large servers on site. Instead, there are service providers that provide a cloud-based infrastructure that is scalable based on business needs. Security needs to be a key aspect of this cloud-based infrastructure.

In any business, security protects the core infrastructure—that is, the hardware, software, networking, and facilities that are running services. A servicer’s core infrastructure must provide the flexibility to launch new products or services efficiently in a way that protects data. As a result, the infrastructure becomes a fluid asset, just as information going in and out of mortgage servicing systems is a fluid asset.

Using software and hardware to configure managed services, such as desktop environments, will provide the best security practices and IT security standards, preventing the cyber-hacker from gaining access to valuable data.

Security, however, is more than simply tying together hardware and software. As mortgage servicing volume increases and decreases, the mortgage servicer must grow, shrink, and adapt its consumption of services. Growth means higher demands for security both inside and outside of the cyber world. Likewise, reduced demand from loss mitigation, short sales, and loan resolutions demands a flexible infrastructure that lowers costs but maintains the same level of security necessary for current loan volume.

Empowering the Buyer

The 21st century mortgage servicer must aspire to be the Uber or iPhone of servicing. Giving borrowers and investors the wherewithal to get what they want at their own preference and convenience has to be the “new normal” in mortgage servicing.

Just as Quicken’s rocket mortgage product set new standards for how consumers experience getting a mortgage, mortgage servicers need to expedite the servicing process by putting borrower and investor convenience at the forefront—all while maintaining security of the borrower’s information.

One thing the mortgage industry has learned from the ongoing changes in the regulatory environment and consumer behavior is that consumers demand and expect a simpler method of maneuvering through the “wall” that stands in the way of gathering and accessing their own information.

As an industry, we need to make the process smoother for consumers and investors as they navigate through websites and phone systems. It means that we use security as a means for borrowers and investors to unlock a more transparent process. With a secure ID and password, borrowers, investors, and servicers should be able to enter a single website and obtain the specific data they need and are entitled to at their own convenience.

The overriding idea behind enhanced customer convenience in the servicing space is to enable borrowers—as well as investor clients—to do as much of the work themselves as they can without having to call the mortgage servicer. Borrowers, for example, should be able to view all their documents online. If servicers don’t already have an online portal, then they need to create one that lets borrowers gain instant access to all documents. This expedites the mortgage servicing process by allowing clients to self-service their own needs at their own convenience while decreasing demands on call centers.

Likewise, servicers should be able to give their borrowers the option of going paperless, instead receiving notifications in real-time via text message or email. This not only makes it more convenient for borrowers, but it’s also more cost-effective for the servicer in that it eliminates the need for printing paper documents and buying postage, not to mention the time savings involved.

In the same way, loan investors should be able to access all the information about the loans they own, wherever they want, whenever they want. That includes real-time loan performance data within their investor portals, including proprietary loan analytics, decision-making technology, and life-of-loan management. For all these reasons, it’s important for mortgage servicers to build infrastructure that does not limit but instead enables each of these capabilities.

Tech with a Touch

For various reasons, many borrowers and investors avoid self-service portals. Some people simply want to call a phone number and hear a human voice rather than remember an ID and password for every entrance into a website. Others are looking for answers they can’t find on a website or have a question on data not available in an FAQ section. Most of the time, not every conceivable question a borrower or investor client may have is answerable in an online portal.

A servicer’s infrastructure must leverage technology with human contact to solve this issue. That means making further improvements in customer service menus and adding a live chat function for those willing to stay online. Again, the main idea is to reduce the number of calls to your call centers.

For borrowers and investors who still need to hear that human voice, providing a specific point-of-contact for each borrower or investor client is crucial in today’s market. Customers should be able to discuss their issues with their dedicated loan service representative via chat, email, or telephone.

We talk about mortgage origination as a “relationship business,” but mortgage servicing also demands a relationship between the servicer, the borrower, and the investor. Making those relationships work requires dedicated service to meet the needs of the client, just as is the case in any profession. In today’s world, it also requires the speed, accuracy, and flexibility to project the greatest efficiency possible for customers so they keep coming back. The bottom line is that a servicer’s infrastructure must be built from the ground up with customer service in mind.

Rolling with the Punches

If there is one thing that is constant in our industry, it is continuous change—both regulatory change and changes in borrower and investor needs. A servicer’s infrastructure therefore needs to be agile, functional, and scalable in order to accommodate these changes.

A servicer’s work is based on customer demands, whether they’re growing or shrinking. The flexible infrastructure that today’s technology provides allows them to adjust to new regulatory restrictions more easily. Similarly, it provides servicers with the capabilities to launch new products or services more efficiently, under the umbrella of new or refined rules and regulations. Indeed, a mortgage servicer’s infrastructure should be a fluid asset, not a rigid system that can’t easily be altered to meet changing needs. Mortgage servicers must rely on them to fit into any new compliance regime, because what is true today may not be so tomorrow.

Reaching New Heights

No matter what industry they are in, a business that has solid security, stronger compliance, a high-quality customer experience, and excellent customer service will see the results on the bottom line. Mortgage servicers are no different. As long as they approach their technology infrastructure with these four critical steps in mind, there’s no reason why mortgage servicers cannot become the “rocket servicers” of 2017 and beyond.

Source: DS News



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.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


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.


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, 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.


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.


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.