Who is USAA?

When you think about quintessential Purpose-driven brands, financial services companies are likely not the first to come to mind. There have been so many stories of shady ethics and bottom-line fixation in recent years that this industry elicits wariness and distrust. 

Perhaps this is why USAA stands out so much. The company was founded in 1922 when 25 Army officers came together to insure each other’s vehicles. From the very beginning, the organization was built on what has become their very simple and powerful Purpose – “to serve those who serve” – and to this day, membership is reserved for U.S. military members, their spouses, and their children. 

USAA’s most recent annual report drives on the organization’s Purpose, starting with the title and photo featured on the cover.

USAA’s Purpose and commitment to their clearly defined audience is evident in everything it does, from its products and services to its employee culture. Over the last 100 years, the company has added various lines of insurance, banking and investment services, and today, the company has 13 million members, more than $200 billion in assets, and is one of the most successful financial services companies in the world. 

Purpose in Action

From the start, USAA has embraced its Purpose and built its brand – both to the marketplace and to its employees – on this bedrock. And there are several examples of how USAA’s strong Purpose has helped drive its success.  

First, the company’s commitment to its Purpose and to truly “serving those who serve” has helped build incredible trust and loyalty with customers. Because USAA serves such a specific audience and their Purpose aligns so directly with the service ethos of the military, they attract and retain customers at an unparalleled rate. For example, early in World War II, USAA automatically renewed auto insurance policies for any members outside of the US, easing the burden of those deployed at war. What other company is taking this dramatic step? 

As this ad demonstrates, USAA’s Purpose powerfully differentiates its brand from competitors.

Similarly, they’ve built a remarkably strong brand reputation, built on excellent customer service and a clear commitment to helping members reach their financial goals. They offer 24/7 customer service and thoroughly train their representatives so anyone answering these inquiries is both knowledgeable and helpful.   

Finally, USAA’s strong sense of Purpose has helped the company attract and retain top talent and fostered a positive work environment. People who are passionate about serving the military community are drawn to USAA, and they are more likely to stay with the company for the long term. USAA only hires members, so all employees can personally relate to those they’re serving. 

USAA’s culture, and the tagline on the back of their t-shirts when they volunteer, is grounded in their Purpose.

My Customer Experience 

I’ve been a USAA member for more than twenty years (my wife’s father was an Army officer) and when I initially moved my insurance, I immediately saved money. Since then, every time I call, the experience is one of caring and that there is plenty of time to talk. I am treated like a member of the extended family rather than someone to cross-sell or up-sell. 

I remember when we added our 16-year-old son to our family’s auto insurance – a stressful and expensive move for any parent.  The USAA rep was empathetic and shared a story about her own experience when she reached the same milestone in her family. Similarly, when we have had to make claims, the service has been very supportive and geared toward helping things get resolved smoothly and efficiently.  

It turns out my experience is not isolated – USAA has created a unique culture of customer experience that focuses on value and loyalty rather than near-term profit. They also encourage their entire staff to submit ideas for improvement. So far, they’ve received submissions for tens of thousands of ideas of which more than 3,000 have been so valuable that they’ve been awarded US patents. 

After a year of being a member, in what was perhaps my biggest surprise, I received a rebate check. It turns out USAA is the only major financial services company to give part of its profits back to members. What a great way to demonstrate its commitment the financial wellbeing of its customers.

Beyond the Benchmark Results 

Clearly, USAA has a strong sense of Purpose and culture, but how does that translate into results? Here are some great examples of the results USAA’s sense of Purpose has helped it achieve: 

  • In 2022, USAA was ranked #1 in customer satisfaction by J.D. Power for the 11th consecutive year. 
  • USAA has a 98% customer retention rate and its Net Promoter Score (a customer loyalty metric that measures customers’ willingness to not only return for another purchase or service but also make a recommendation to their family, friends or colleagues) is four times higher than the industry average – theirs is 75, the industry average is 18.  
  • USAA has been named one of the “Best Places to Work” by Fortune magazine for 15 consecutive years. 
  • By all key measures, USAA has become the most beloved financial brand on earth

Key Takeaways for Any Organization 

While USAA has 36,000 employees and operates as a large corporation, the way they translate their Purpose into performance is something organizations of any size can learn from and apply. In fact, this is the work that Fathom takes on every day with the closely-held businesses and nonprofits we serve. Here are some key ideas any organization can apply: 

  • Focus your services and marketing to a very specific audience with built-in resonance for your Purpose 
  • Embed your Purpose into how you recruit, train and retain talented employees 
  • Deliver customer experiences every day that exemplify your Purpose and celebrate the employees that best exemplify this ideal 
  • Encourage and incent your employees to submit ideas to enhance customer experiences 

How can your business emulate the USAA model for success? 

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