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Spotlight Interview: Michael Greenbaum Chair of Property Preservation Executive Forum

This piece originally appeared in the November 2023 edition of MortgagePoint magazine, online now.

Michael Greenbaum serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Safeguard Properties. He joined Safeguard in July 2010 as VP of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of VP of Operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015. He has spent the last 13 years with Safeguard, understanding and leading change within the property preservation sector, becoming a valued partner to clients by driving innovation and excellence within the industry. A distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), Greenbaum majored in quantitative economics before serving in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specializing in supply chain management. Prior to joining Safeguard, he spent the first 13 years of his post-Army career managing worldwide supply chains.

In September 2023, Greenbaum was nominated and voted in as Chair of Five Star’s Property Preservation Executive Forum (PPEF), an industry membership group that brings together leadership from the nation’s largest property preservation companies to promote best practices in the field services industry and devise solutions for the challenges that face it. (Five Star is the parent company of MortgagePoint.) MortgagePoint took some time to catch up with Greenbaum and discuss his recent appointment as Chair and what he hopes to prioritize during his term.

Q: How long have you been a member of the Property Preservation Executive Forum, and what leadership roles, if any, have you held throughout that time?
I have personally been a member for about seven years. I haven’t held any leadership roles previously but have always been an active contributor to the forum.

Q: Why is the PPEF and its work so important to the industry and to PPEF membership right now?
The Forum brings together some of the most thoughtful and passionate people in the industry. As I was working through a few issues with the group last month, I was trying to calculate the number of years of experience in the room and stopped counting when I got above 300 years.

Q: What are some top priorities or initiatives you will be pursuing as Chair?
Working with investors to define the issues facing servicers and property preservation companies. The investors and insurers are more than willing to help; they are just looking for good business problem definitions, defined approaches to solve, and probable benefits. Optimizing the Hazard Insurance claims process, revisiting inspection ordering logic or rules, fixing ad[1]dress issues, and working to ensure pricing stays competitive with the marketplace.

The field force is changing. The environment for local independent contractors is red hot. The expectation of an easy, intuitive software experience is an absolute requirement. This makes us market differently and has changed our communication approach to our field network tremendously. We understand we are 100% of service to vendors or they will go to the next best opportunity. The rest of the industry stays fairly consistent, in my opinion. The fundamentals of preserving and protecting homes have remained consistent for the last 30 years.

Q: What drives your commitment to your craft and industry?
I like to problem-solve and lead process change throughout our industry, which is very disjointed. I love the people that make up the industry—contractors especially, as well as thought leaders in the investor shops (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, USDA, VA, and FHA).

Q: What are some insights or at least one piece of advice you wish you would have known when you first started in the industry?
Be patient at times. People want to do what is right, and many entities have separate self-interests and goals. It takes many conversations to understand the different drivers and how to suggest changes that have a chance of being implemented.

Q: How has being a member of a trade association resulted in business growth for you?
Mainly in the relationships I have developed with peers and clients alike. Participating on panels has helped to open conversations throughout the industry. It means a lot to me to be able to present solutions to problems through these discussions, and then have clients approach after the session to discuss further. These interactions have developed into very meaningful, career-long relationships for me.

Q: What legacy industry impact would you most desire to be known for?
I just want to continue to help the industry by redefining approaches that are suboptimal: that lead to book loss, loss of property, or introduce audit risk to our clients’ shops.

At Safeguard, we have developed many programs that get used across the industry: 60 Day to Sale, NYDFS Property Review, FHA Post Sale Impediment Management, Open Order Marketplace for Vendors, Washington, and Maine State best practices, etc. We have a couple more ideas in the lab that I’m also very excited about.

Q: Are there any other important aspects of PPEF you’d like to spotlight?
I want this Forum to become the main problem-solving forum in the industry. There is a lot of buzz around it lately. I think people are starting to see that this committee is built to act. Not every initiative will be successful, and we may discover that existing rules and practices serve the collective interest best. But every member can be assured that those questions will be asked, and stones will be turned over and fully evaluated before we leave a topic.

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.

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