Paycheck Chronicles

Visiting The USAA Headquarters 2017


In September, I was honored to be invited to USAA's San Antonio headquarters for a few days of learning about all the creative and innovative ways they're evolving to better serve their members. Each year, USAA brings together a group of bloggers and other military media folks and let us snoop around in the various corners of the operations. This was my fifth? I think year, and it was the best one yet. (Though I'm still a little sad that I missed the year where they went up on the roof to see the air conditioning units that cool the 3.9 million square feet in the McDermott Building. I have no idea why this interest me. It makes no sense.)

Full disclosure because the Federal Trade Commission feels strongly about this: I was invited to San Antonio as a guest of USAA. They paid for my travel, accommodations, and some scrumptious Texas food. I was not compensated for this post, and all the opinions within are my own. I've been a USAA member for something like 28 years, and I have investments, banking products, and insurance with USAA. 

Constantly Improving

USAA does a TON of research to determine what their members need, and the best ways to fill those needs. This includes everything from research on the most effective ways to communicate with members to improving the way their software systems work to decrease the amount of wasted time during phone calls. We saw this up-close-and-personal during our visit to the USAA Member Service Representative Lab.

In this department, individual member service representatives from various product lines work in the same space with some of the folks that make their computer systems run. These MSRs volunteer to spend a year away from their usual work-space, test-driving everything from desks to software. The integrated space allows the MSRs to provide immediate, face-to-face feedback about their program and process challenges, and lets the systems people adapt and adjust the software at a incredibly fast rate. Once the team has the update right, it can be deployed across the entire enterprise.

Using Technology To Improve Outcomes

We had a super-neat visit to the USAA Labs, where people clearly smarter than me were brainstorming, creating, and improving all sorts of ideas. The USAA Labs explore interesting and promising creative applications to improve the overall member experience. We got to experiment with a pilot program using an Amazon Alexa to get banking information via audio. This terrifies me, but some other participants were very interested.

You can see some of the results of previous USAA Lab programs here, and you can join open pilot studies here. (You will have to log into your USAA account.)

Reaching Out To All Ages and Backgrounds

Sometimes, it seems like USAA is doing things randomly, but I’ve discovered that there is usually careful logic behind every action. A great example is their support of NFL Football. It’s never made sense to me - why spend so much money on that? This year, Doug Nordman of The Military Guide asked the question of Chris Cox, USAA’s Chief Digital Officer. Lo and behold, Chris’ answer made complete sense: USAA’s internal research indicates that it is underserving the younger troops, and the younger troops watch NFL. Which is probably the same explanation for why my daughters report so many USAA ads on Spotify.

We also had a sneak peak of another example of how USAA is reaching a wide variety of eligible members. I can’t tell you all about it yet, but I suggest you subscribe to their YouTube channel to see the amazing new project they have coming.

Questions You Asked

In advance of my trip, I solicited questions for me to ask USAA. I don’t quite yet have answers to every single question, but here are the answers I do have:

Why do we have to update our addresses with each department when we move?

Different product lines use different software programs, and they aren’t necessarily linked. If you call and update your address with one product line, you should probably send a message through your online access to ask them to verify that your address has been updated across all product lines.

How can members talk to a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) when they call? They used to be available at Financial Service Centers, but most of them have closed. This is an area where things are changing. They are looking at the best way to serve their customers who want that personal contact of a CFP while acknowledging the reality that most folks don’t want that sort of service.

Living Their Mission

What impressed me the most was the constant reference to USAA’s mission statement, and the clear and logical relationship between the mission statement and the things that USAA does.

“The mission of the association is to facilitate the financial security of its members, associates and their families through provision of a full range of highly competitive financial products and services; in so doing, USAA seeks to be the provider of choice for the military community.”

Over the two day visit, I probably saw or heard employees refer to the mission about once an hour. It is very clear that the employees and the leadership team strive to reflect the mission in all of their actions, whether they are talking to a member directly or serving some well-hidden role behind the scenes. While I don’t agree with every single thing that USAA does, I respect and admire their overall dedication to the financial well-being of military families. That’s what I’m all about!

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