Channels

08:45 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

USAA's Greg Schwartz Keeps IT's Focus On The Customer Experience

At USAA, CIO Greg Schwartz leads an IT organization whose mission is to innovate on behalf of its active and retired military member customers.


Elite 8 2013The October issue of Bank Systems & Technology introduces the 2013 Elite 8 -- eight visionary bank technology executives who are enabling transformation in a changing financial services industry. Our exclusive profiles report how this year's honorees are leading their companies' efforts to capitalize on mobile, compete on superior customer experience, improve operational resilience and tap into the potential of big data, among other hot trends. To read more, download our October 2013 digital issue now.
The company has created a group specifically responsible for what Schwartz calls “radical innovation.” The group — known as “Rev Dev,” for “revolutionary development” — has its own budget and works with a variety of technology companies, “looking for ways to take advantage of emerging technologies to solve business problems and challenges,” he says. “When we find a good idea and it prototypes well, then we rapidly get it into our product development queue.” One such recent innovation is a way to deposit multiple checks at once via mobile banking.

Another way USAA drives innovation is through its Innovation Communities for the Enterprise, or ICE, an interactive program that allows employees in any part of the business to generate and propose new ideas. “On the IT side we constantly are mining that tool for great ideas,” Schwartz says. Additionally, USAA runs an innovation center lab open to all employees for brainstorming and idea development.

[Chase Tops Keynote Mobile Banking Scorecard]

USAA also launched a coding competition, called Code as ICE, which runs several times a year. It gives cross-functional teams business problems to solve. All the ideas submitted at the most recent competition “have the potential for us to fund and take to production,” Schwartz says. “Our employees are passionate about it, they work [the challenges] on their own time, they love the competition and they love the teamwork and exposure it gives to the business community. It’s all about keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive here at USAA.”

Schwartz’s commitment to fostering that entrepreneurial spirit typifies his approach to leadership. ”I try to be an inspirational leader, not a problem solver,” he says. “I work with my team setting big hairy audacious goals, really empowering my direct reports and my teammates to exceed those goals.”

Personal Snapshot

Greg Schwartz

CIO and senior VP of information technology services, USAA

IT organization: $1 billion budget, 2,500 employees

Career: Joined USAA in 1983, named to current position in 2004

Education: BS in management ­information systems, Texas State University; MBA in finance, St. Mary’s University

Hobbies: Boating, golfing, fantasy football (“I’m really good at it!”) and spending time with family

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

Previous
2 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
KBurger
50%
50%
KBurger,
User Rank: Strategist
10/15/2013 | 3:06:39 AM
re: USAA's Greg Schwartz Keeps IT's Focus On The Customer Experience
One of the things I discussed with Greg is the impressive bench strength they have on the management team at USAA. We often hear about team, collaboration, etc., but they have managed to have all these talented, creative people work effectively together -- doesn't seem to be a battle of egos.
Greg MacSweeney
50%
50%
Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
10/14/2013 | 10:26:06 AM
re: USAA's Greg Schwartz Keeps IT's Focus On The Customer Experience
I remember visiting with USAA's CIO more than a decade ago and even back then, the company had figured out how to provide an integrated customer experience to its customers. I remember we were shocked that customers could see all of their banking and insurance products in one place. They've been doing this very well for a very long time.
KBurger
50%
50%
KBurger,
User Rank: Strategist
10/12/2013 | 1:45:18 AM
re: USAA's Greg Schwartz Keeps IT's Focus On The Customer Experience
All these comments are on target -- the culture at USAA definitely sets it apart from so many other financial services companies.Not to take anything away from USAA, but I do think the company has one advantage to most other large companies do not have -- a relatively homogenous customer base (active and retired military). Obviously there is a lot of demographic, ethnic & other diversity within that constituency, but at the same time there are consistent needs, expectations, values -- and values that USAA shares. But that doesn't mean that USAA's achievements can't be replicated at other companies, because it all comes down to knowing your customer, anticipating and responding to needs & doing so with outstanding service and a willingness to be on the leading of technology to do so.
Byurcan
50%
50%
Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
10/11/2013 | 12:23:03 PM
re: USAA's Greg Schwartz Keeps IT's Focus On The Customer Experience
I agree, it must be a culture thing. It's not as if USAA has access to technology that nobody else does; yet they are continually rated at the top in customer experience and innovation surveys.
Greg MacSweeney
50%
50%
Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
10/11/2013 | 10:05:30 AM
re: USAA's Greg Schwartz Keeps IT's Focus On The Customer Experience
A lack of integration between business lines is definitely a culture issue, IMO. Institutional inertia (doing things the same way the company has always done them) is a hard thing to change.

The technology is available to integrate customer data from even the oldest legacy systems. However, you still see many insurers and other financial institutions with fragmented customer facing setups -- separate websites, call centers and often separate advisors for products.
Nathan Golia
50%
50%
Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
10/10/2013 | 9:06:35 PM
re: USAA's Greg Schwartz Keeps IT's Focus On The Customer Experience
As you noted Schwartz is the first CIO to be honored by both I&T and BS&T, and I think that speaks to the tight integration between the businesses within USAA. Talk to anyone at the company and you'll see how customer insight is passed from insurance to banking and vice versa, allowing the company to create an overall customer experience that is second to none in the industry. Meanwhile, you still have some multiline insurance companies that can't get life and auto premiums, for example, on the same bill... is this a technology problem or a culture problem?
Register for Bank Systems & Technology Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Bank Systems & Technology - August 2014
Modern core systems are emerging as the foundations of effective channel integration and customer engagement initiatives.
Slideshows
Video