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 1922 Major William Henry Garrison gathered 24 U.S. Army officers at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. He wanted to brainstorm solutions to the problem of automobile insurance for his peers. Army officers were considered a high-risk group due to their constant moves, resulting in highly expensive policies and frequent cancellation. Insurance firms were deemed unsupportive.
The men decided to address the issue by forming a mutual company enabling them to insure each others’ vehicles. Their model was the Army Cooperative Fire Insurance Company in Fort Leavenworth. They called it the United States Army Automobile Association, elected leaders, and set up a local office. The company issued its first policy to Major Walker Moore for his 1922 Elcar.
By the end of ten months the firm had a deficit of over $3,000 due to inaccurate estimates of insurance policy costs. So at its first annual meeting in 1924, it voted to extend membership beyond the Army to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to bring in more funds. Because its scope was more broad, its name was changed to the United Services Automobile Association – USAA for short.
The meeting also featured a number of other important actions, including the adoption of an industry standard for insurance premiums (discounted by 20%), an application for a Texas license, the declaration of an 8% dividend, and the creation of a reserve for losses. By the end of that year, USAA had grown to over 3,300 active duty members and maintained assets of over $85,000.
In the 1980s, the company responded to member demand by adding many new services through various subsidiaries. These included USAA Life Insurance Company and USAA Investment Management Company. It also launched USAA Federal Savings Bank, providing credit card operations, deposit services, and loans. USAA is now a Fortune 500 diversified financial services firm.
Business model of USAA
USAA has a niche market business model, with a specialized customer segment. The company targets its offerings at active and former members of the U.S. military and their immediate families.
USAA offers six primary value propositions: accessibility, convenience, innovation, risk reduction, performance, and brand/status.
The company creates accessibility by providing a wide variety of options. It makes a concerted effort to serve disabled members by providing auxiliary aids and services. These include TTY and TDD calls, accessible websites and mobile apps, large print and Braille documents, sign language interpreters, and talking ATMs with voice instructions. It also makes its facilities accessible, providing Braille signage and ATMs with Braille instructions for the visually impaired, unobstructed pathways, handheld magnifiers for the viewing of printed materials, and trained interpreters who can facilitate conversations using speech and sign language, note-taking, and specialized reading.
The company reduces costs for members in a variety of ways. These include free use of ATMs nationwide and competitive credit card, auto loan, and mortgage rates. Specific savings in other areas include the following:
- Average savings of $375 per year for members who switch to USAA Auto Insurance
- Up to a 15% discount on car insurance for members who garage their car on base
- Up to a 60% vehicle storage discount on auto insurance if vehicle is stored for 30 days
- Up to a 25% discount on car rentals plus additional benefits and savings
- Up to a 28% discount on personal shipments and up to a 40% discount on business shipments through FedEx
- A 25% discount on flowers, gifts, and more
- Member-only discounts on new and used vehicles through a car-buying program; members have saved an average of $3,443 off retail prices
The company has embraced innovation throughout its history. Examples include the following:
- It was a pioneer of direct marketing, conducting most of its early business through mail.
- It was one of the first financial institutions to offer its members mobile check deposit, vehicle purchase via phone with Auto Circle, a Smartwatch app on Apple Watch and Android wear, facial/voice/PIN entry, and mobile payments with Apple Pay and Android Pay.
- It operates Innovation Communities for the Enterprise (ICE), an online community that enables employees to submit ideas for innovative solutions, collaborate with peers, and assist in solution development.
- Its lines of business, IT, and support resources work together to pilot new capabilities in eight in-house labs designed to test prototypes in various scenarios.
The company reduces risk by maintaining high safety and security standards. Its Enterprise
Security Group constantly monitors its systems in order to protect member information and secure their transactions. Each day it reviews approximately 15,600 fraud alerts, blocks 38,000 inbound attacks and helps prevent $8.4 million in fraud losses. Furthermore, USAA strengthens its threat detection capabilities by having its Cyber Threat Operations Center collaborate with colleagues in law enforcement, industry associations, and government agencies.
The company has demonstrated strong performance through tangible results. It processed six million auto and property claims in 2014, including nearly 137,000 catastrophe claims. It returned $1.6 billion to members and customers in 2014 through dividends, distributions, and bank rebates and rewards, the highest total in its history.
The company has established a powerful brand as a result of its performance. It is the fifth largest personal auto insurer, the fifth largest homeowners insurer, and the ninth largest credit card issuer in the U.S. It offers 47.2 million products to 11.7 million members. It maintains the highest possible ratings for its property/casualty insurance group and life insurance companies at rating agency A.M. Best Company (A++). It has high customer satisfaction, with 98% of its members revealing their intentions to remain at the company in a survey. Lastly, it has won many honors, including:
- Ranking as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For by Fortune (2010 to 2016)
- Recognition as one of the World’s Most Admired Companies by Fortune (2014 to 2016)
- Ranking as the #1 Best Place to Work in IT by Computerworld (2010, 2011, 2012)
- Ranking as the No. 1 Military-Friendly Employer by I. Jobs Magazine (2013 to 2014)
- Recognition as one of America’s Best Large Employers by Forbes (2014 to 2015)
- Ranking as one of the 50 Top Performing Insurance Companies by Ward Group (24 years)
USAA’s main channels are its website and its direct sales team. The company promotes its offering through its social media pages, advertising, sponsorships, and participation in conferences.
USAA’s customer relationship is primarily of a self-service, automated nature. Customers utilize its products and services while having limited interaction with employees. The company’s website provides answers to frequently asked questions. That said, there is a personal assistance component in the form of phone and e-mail support.
USAA’s business model entails designing and developing its products and services for customers.
USAA’s key partners are the suppliers that provide materials and equipment it needs to run on a daily basis. The company also aligns with military affiliate groups to promote its products and services while supporting programs that benefit military members, veterans, and their families.
USAA’s main resources are its human resources, who include the insurance and investment professionals who design and develop its products and services, the sales employees who promote and sell them, and the customer service employees who provide support.
USAA has a cost-driven structure, aiming to minimize expenses through significant automation and low-price value propositions. Its biggest cost driver is cost of insurance benefits provided. Other major drivers are in the areas of administration and sales/marketing, both fixed costs.
USAA has three revenue streams:
- Insurance premiums earned from the sale of its various insurance products
- Transaction fees charged on sales
- Interest earned from investments