My 2017 USAA DigitalMilEx Experience

in Reviews & Random by Lacey Langford, AFC®

Heads up, this post is sponsored. Federal Trade Commission Disclosure: USAA was kind enough to invite me (yes, me) + 30 other amazing military influencers to San Antonio to visit and learn more about their company. They arranged and paid for all my travel, accommodations, delicious meals and a yummy snack bag. Not to mention they gave me some cool USAA swag that included a fidget spinner and a backpack. Both of which were commandeered by my sons. I’m also a USAA member and use them for insurance. For the trip, I did not receive cold hard cash (unless it’s in the mail. USAA?), but I did receive the benefits just mentioned. Even though I had a kick butt trip to TX for DigitalMilEx (on USAA’s dime), this article is still my honest thoughts and opinions on USAA. I’m telling you the same things I told my parents about the trip. When you’re in the career field of military & money, getting an invitation to visit USAA is a big deal. My initial RVSP for DigitalMilEx (Digital Military Experience) was “HECK, Yeah!” but I thought better and hit backspace. Instead, I went with the more “I have an upbringing” response of, “thank you for the invitation, I’d love to come.” By accepting the invite, not only was I given a two-day immersion into the inner workings of USAA, but I also had a chance to rub elbows with 30 of the biggest military influencers. I’ll admit I tried to play it real cool the first day (ok, and the 2nd) but I was doing a little happy dance on the inside (maybe in my hotel room too).

Military Influencers with CEO, Stuart Parker
My USAA experience was well-balanced. We visited different departments within USAA, had panel discussions with USAA employees and were shown not yet released content. I would have liked to visit more offices within the building but realize time and the sheer size of USAA were limiting. Plus it would have been awkward to try to squeeze 30 of us into a cubicle with employees trying to work. I get it. It would have been too much. I was happy to learn more than I already knew about the company. But from the whole 2017 USAA DigitalMilEx experience, I had a few favorite parts and one big take away.

Biggest Takeaway

My biggest taking away is that USAA is living and breathing their mission.

“USAA’s mission is to facilitate the financial security of its members, associates and their families by providing a full range of highly competitive financial products and services. In so doing, we seek to be the provider of choice for the military community. We do this by upholding the highest standards and ensuring that our corporate business activities and individual employee conduct reflect good judgment and common sense, and are consistent with our core values of: Service, Loyalty, Honesty and Integrity.”

Of course, they told us their mission and how it’s used every day. But you know how that can be sometimes, lip service. With each department, we visited and each employee we met, it was clear that it wasn’t just lip service. It’s a daily practice. Here are two examples that impressed me the most. First is the Member Service Representative Lab where teamwork is at it’s finest. They select USAA employees from a pool of volunteers to work in an area designed to “test concepts and capabilities that could impact Member Service Representative and contact centers.” They bring together customer service reps from different fields such as coding, insurance, and banking into one area. They work together to recommend and test changes to USAA systems and procedures to not only improve how employees help members but also to help make a better work environment for their employees. Second (and the most impressive), is their response to the hurricane season. Due to the devastation, many had to wait to look at the damage their homes sustained. Anticipating member needs, USAA Labs pulled together to provide not only members but anyone living near a USAA member access to aerial photos of their homes. Giving them the opportunity to see the impact of the hurricane on their homes from a computer. Amazingly, from the time of the idea to the time it was available online, was just 12 hours. Crazy! If you haven’t heard of USAA Labs before, here is the official description.

“USAA Labs provides members the opportunity to engage and provide feedback on new innovations, concepts and exclusive pilots. USAA Labs puts you, the innovator, at the forefront of innovation by providing a vibrant community where members can innovate for members.”

They have Labs you can sign up to test. If you are interested, here is where to go. All the favorite parts of my trip were proof that they aren’t just talking about helping the military community, they’re following their words with action.
Our River Walk boat tour

My Third Favorite Part – BRS

I know this part is the financial coach dork in me. But going into the event, I knew I wanted to ask questions about their response to the Blended Retirement System (BRS) opt-in decision. I didn’t have to wait long. During the first panel discussion, USAA employees were asked the question “What do you think is one of the most pressing issues military members are facing?” The first response was “the BRS opt-in decision.” I was happy to hear USAA and me are on the same page. The BRS is bringing retirement planning to the forefront for many Service members. And because of it, they’re getting schooled up (mandatory learning) on financial planning concepts and being forced to look at the way their retirement works now vs. the way it could be in the BRS. To help their members facing this big decision, USAA has created the Military Retirement Comparison Tool. And just like the name says, it compares the two retirement systems. But USAA didn’t have to. They could just let members use the DoD BRS calculator. But true to their mission, they’re anticipating member needs and giving them a leg up in working towards their financial security.  The comparison tool is an excellent resource to help Service members make an educated opt-in decision. And you’ll need all the help you can get, January 1, 2018, isn’t far away. Decision time is coming!

My Second Favorite Part – YouTube Project

I have to be a little vague here because it’s not yet released. In the hopes of reaching a wider audience and bringing in new members. USAA is coming out with a wonderful way to share what is at the heart of the military community, storytelling. These stories will be shared via USAA YouTube Channel and show the ups and downs and the “why” behind Service members and veterans’ military service. Some will make you feel good, others will pull at your heartstrings, but they’re all memorable. I cannot wait for it to be released and will share with you ASAP! You won’t believe it’s USAA.

My Favorite Part 

As part of 2017 USAA DigitalMilEx, we attend a company-wide meeting with the CEO and other executives. First, I walked out of there thinking I want everyone I know to get a job at USAA. Second, given the recent devastation of the 2017 hurricane season, you can imagine USAA has been busy. When the discussion of hurricane damage came up, one comment by CEO, Stuart Parker has stuck with me, “This is what we’re built for.” That statement really sums up the tone of that meeting but also the company. They aren’t sitting around having a pity party but are instead rising to challenges and anticipating their member’s needs. I walked out of there with a lot more respect for the work USAA does for not only its members but also its employees. And I’ve been a member for 24 years! signature