Three Takeaways for Banks from State of the Union Address

On January 29, National Mortgage News published an article titled Three Takeaways for Banks from Obama’s State of the Union Address.

Three Takeaways for Banks from Obama’s State of the Union Address

President Obama hit on several important issues for bankers in his annual address to Congress Tuesday night, though as expected financial services issues took a backseat to other national concerns, like unemployment and the minimum wage.

The president did not blast the banking industry as he has in years past, nor did he declare victory on the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act, as some had predicted. Indeed, he didn’t even tout his success getting key regulators like Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Mel Watt, head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, confirmed to their posts in 2013.

But he did touch on the need for housing finance reform and announced a plan to launch government-backed retirement accounts that may prove to be a new line of business for the banking industry.

Below are three key takeaways from the night, including reactions from key lawmakers on the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees.

If you sneezed or turned your head at the wrong time you might have missed it, but ongoing efforts in Congress to overhaul Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did get shout-out, albeit a vague one, during the speech.

Obama asked lawmakers to “send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations of Americans,” building on his earlier support last fall of Senate efforts at a bipartisan housing reform.

A White House fact sheet accompanying the speech noted that Obama remains “encouraged” by efforts on the Senate Banking Committee to forge an agreement on the issue. Chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, the ranking member, have been working together for several months and are said to be working toward introducing legislation addressing the government-sponsored enterprises sometime later this year. Their efforts will likely build on work by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Mark Warner, D-Va., who were also praised in the fact sheet.

After the speech, lawmakers acknowledged that the issue is a terribly complex one, making a nuanced discussion unlikely during a high level address watched by millions of Americans.

“GSEs are a hard thing to cover in the State of the Union because it’s a very detailed, granular topic,” said Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., who is developing his own mortgage finance reform plan with two other House Democrats, in an interview. “You’re never going to get a lot of detail on GSEs because you either talk about GSEs for 30 seconds or for 30 minutes, there’s kind of no in-between.”

Moreover, Michael Stegman, a counselor to the Treasury Secretary on housing finance policy, gave a lengthy and detailed speech just last week at a securitization conference in Las Vegas that reiterated the White House’s commitment on the issue, likely sating many in the industry for now.

Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, added that Obama has already helped along the mortgage finance reform movement by getting Watt, a former Democratic congressman from North Carolina and member of the House Financial Services Committee, confirmed as director of the FHFA late last year.

“That’s significant because he came right off the committee, he knows what’s going on at the committee level,” Green said in an interview. “I think it’s going to be a real plus for our nation to have someone who has had a hands-on experience in the House with these concerns and who can relate across the aisle.”

Still, Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., author of a conservative plan to overhaul the GSEs pending in the House, downplayed Obama’s efforts on the issue, arguing that more concrete work needs to be done.

“We’ve been waiting for his five years for them to do anything on housing finance, and they haven’t done anything,” he said in an interview. “He’s talked about it in the past, so now he’s talked about it again.”

President Obama also detailed a new government-backed retirement savings program during the speech, an effort that could provide additional fee income for banks.

Obama said that he would direct the Treasury Department on Wednesday to establish “to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA.”

But there were few specifics on the plan—and what was said about it was confusing. During the speech, Obama called it a “new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg” and “guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in.”

Yet a White House fact sheet referred to it as “starter retirement account” that would be offered through Roth IRA accounts and, like a savings bond, be backed by the U.S. government.

The Treasury Department is expected to release more details on the idea on Wednesday. If it is an account, it could provide banks with additional fee income if they are held and managed by private institutions.

For their part, lawmakers after the speech were interested.

“Anything to democratize savings is a good idea,” said Delaney, a former entrepreneur and banker, adding that there could be “business opportunities around something like that where you could tie it into financial services a lot of different ways.”

Green agreed.

“Any way we can give people an opportunity to save money and do it in such a way as to take care of their future needs, I think that’s a positive thing,” said Green. “So I see this as one additional tool that is to be utilized.”

Still, while reaction to the State of the Union address largely split along party lines, there was some concern on both sides of the aisle about the president’s focus on implementing executive actions, rather than going to Congress, on a number of issues. Phrases like “and if Congress wants to help” were uttered several times throughout the speech.

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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:



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.