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Countrywide Financial – FASTER

In 2001 Countrywide Financial launched an internally developed, proprietary program called FASTER. The six step methodology (Flow, Analyze, Solve, Target, Execute, and Review) is modeled after Six Sigmaand specifically designed for the financial services environment. FASTER as well as the customer satisfaction program PACE (Proudly Achieving Customer Expectations) are both helping Countrywide improve all aspects of the business from boosting efficiency and enhancing cost effectiveness to improving customer service. Their annual reports have consistently reported their progress to date.

Savings and Benefits

“Since the program’s inception in 2001, FASTER has delivered $76 million in operating profit and has identified potential future savings of $560 million. Although FASTER continues to benefit the Company financially, the true benefit of the program is cultural — every employee can improve Countrywide’s processes, and FASTER gives them the tools and the recognition to do so. At the same time, the PACE group facilitated the gathering of customer service feedback from over 2 million consumers, business partners and employees during 2004.”

2004 Annual Report

“Since the program’s inception in 2001, roughly 6,000 employees have been trained, at various levels of certification, in the FASTER performance management methodology which has resulted in approximately $244 million in productivity gains.”

2003 Annual Report

“Our Passion for excellence was epitomized by the increasing employee utilization of FASTER, a productivity program customized CULTURE for Countrywide. Similar to Six Sigma used in other industries, FASTER is aimed at making every aspect of our operation better. To date, nearly 5,000 employees have been trained in this discipline. We have over 800 users of FASTER software, and approximately 350 registered FASTER projects under way. The cultural impact has been significant: FASTER has been made accessible to all employees, encouraging a continuous improvement mindset at every level of the Company. In 2002, the first full year of the program, FASTER delivered nearly $11 million in operating profit and identified potential future savings of close to $84 million. Given the high degree of employee buy-in, we expect to see substantially increased results for 2003 — including a strong return on investment and thousands more training certifications among our 30,000-person workforce.”

2002 Annual Report

“Our latest innovation comes from our Performance Management Group that has implemented a proprietary continuous improvement program called FASTER. Expertise in process management is the cornerstone of our global operation where we are contracted by international third-parties as a fee-based mortgage processor.”

2001 Annual Report

Articles and Links

Faster Than Six Sigma – Countrywide’s Experience, IQPC Financial Services Conference, July 27 – 28, 2004

Countrywide Implements Alternative to Six Sigma, Press Release, February 20, 2003

Fire in the Belly, Mortgage Banking, Jan 2002

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Comments

Darrin

Michael:

I was interested to hear what you think, personally, about the FASTER program. I’m thinking of applying for a position with them in an area that I want to live, but when I heard someone from their company speak at a conference I wasn’t impressed. It seems like their program is just watered down DMAIC — customized to try to fit what their executives will permit.

Do others feel the same way (if you’ve heard someone from Countrywide speak at a conference)? Does it feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle within the organization, especially since the program is not mandated from the top down like it is at other “successful” deployments?

Thanks,
Darrin

Reply
Michael Marx

Thanks for your comment. I have not heard Countrywide speak at any conferences yet, and I do not have detailed knowledge of their deployment model. According to Jennifer Cohn, who spoke at the conference referenced in the blog entry, they seem proud that there is no mandate, yet they have achieved significant savings. But we all know that hard savings are not everything, without a mandate how effective is the culture change that is required to sustain the efforts? That would be a good question to ask a Countrywide employee.

Randy Canfield, the CFO for the Performance Management Group at Countrywide said this in the 2004 HR Magazine article “Six Sigma in Sight “: “If the CEO doesn’t own the initiative and require involvement and results in the world of process improvement, then it won’t happen…If it’s not a high priority for him, no one else in the organization will see it.”

Clearly Six Sigma is a priority at Countrywide, there may be no “mandate”, but the CEO does support the initiative. Support could actually be better than a mandate in some corporate cultures… just ask Microsoft .

I hope this helps you. Keep your fingers crossed for some comments from Countrywide employees.

Reply
eCurrency Arbitrage

I’m thinking of applying for a position with them in an area that I want to live, but when I heard someone from their company speak at a conference I wasn’t impressed.

Reply


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