USAA began in 1922, when a group of 25 army officers decided to insure each other’s cars when no one else was willing to do so. The United Services Automobile Association is a San Antonio-based financial services company that focuses its efforts on serving current military personnel, veterans and their families.
The Fortune 500 Company, mainly known for its insurance and banking products, is not specifically endorsed by the U.S. government or military. But they have proven themselves as an organization geared towards helping finance the dreams of those in the military and their families.
Working at USAA
Over 29,000 employees strong, USAA has a solid reputation for treating employees well and was even voted a ‘Top Workplace’ by the Tampa Bay Times and the Denver Post.1 If you are a former member of the military, or a family member, you will fit right in working at USAA.
The “Noble Career” as they call it, is stocked with military personnel-the company has a target of hiring 30% of its workforce as veterans and their spouses.2
This puts many military customers at ease knowing their financial affairs are being watched over by employees that understand the unique needs of military families, not a faceless ‘suit’ in New York City. Speaking of dress codes, USAA maintains a flexible business casual or casual dress environment which is an attractive benefit and a growing trend in the financial industry.
Another nice thing about working at USAA is the ability to rotate across their different lines of business-in fact, it’s encouraged. This way, the financial professional gets a taste of different departments and the way they run. An understanding of how all the separate divisions function together is very important, especially when assessing managerial talent.
Working at USAA receives a good rating on review site Glassdoor, with 3.6 out of 5 stars and an 84% approval rating for the CEO.3 There is no better way to assess the workplace atmosphere than from anonymous current and former employees of the company. A frequent criticism we came across was complaints about too much bureaucracy (I guess this is to be expected given the military ties).
Like in the military, there is the opportunity to work your way up through the organization.
A great example is Kent Fortune who began his career at the company’s Colorado Springs call center, speaking with customers about their auto insurance. He worked his way up to the general manager position at USAA’s Colorado Springs campus in 2011.4 This shows that even lower, entry-level positions have the ability to advance into management.
But USAA won’t just throw you into the mix right away. If you land a managerial role at the company, you will attend and complete their ‘Management Development School’ program located in San Antonio campus. One drawback with this position is that if you are relocated, they will not provide relocation assistance. But that is one of the few areas of this company that doesn’t provide strong benefits.
There is great room for advancement at USAA, but you won’t be going to USAA looking for the highest compensation levels unless you get to a Director position, where employees report the average salary as being $113,863.5 You can be sure many of these professionals have an advanced degree such as an MBA or many years of experience at the company.
USAA typically recruits talent for their two main areas, banking and insurance. They appear to be hiring for positions nationwide, with openings in Tampa, Colorado Springs, San Antonio, Phoenix and Chesapeake. There is no coincidence that these locations mirror military facilities. Tampa is home to MacDill Air Force base and CENTCOM, Colorado Springs has Peterson and Cheyenne, San Antonio has Lackland Air Force Base and there are numerous bases in the Chesapeake/Hampton Roads areas of Virginia. Some of the specific positions we saw openings for were:
Accounting Finance Director
Like many of the positions at USAA, strong leadership qualities are highly valued and this is spelled out specifically in the job requirements as you may be asked to take on the leadership of ‘select projects’, similar to project manager role. These professionals oversee a group of professionals operating at one of their 4 main banking call center locations. The position also requires three years of leadership experience.6
USAA is a major, property and casualty insurer and must periodically investigate, negotiate and settle customer claims. The claims adjuster is a stepping stone to higher jobs in USAA’s insurance department, ending at property examiner after roughly six years in the department.7 The insurance industry is unfortunately, the target of fraudulent claim activity. Not as scrutinizing as a fraud investigator, a claims adjuster is the first line of defense for an insurance company against any type of fraudulent claims. The average of 27 reviewers pegged the average salary for a claims adjuster at USAA at $44,548.8
Mortgage Loan Officer
You can expect to see this position nationwide at USAA, given the rebound in the economy and especially the housing market since the Great Recession. Given the fact that military families often move around several times, this is a position that shouldn’t be going away anytime soon.
Mortgage loan officers at USAA must be acutely aware of the military benefits available for borrowing for home ownership-most notably the loan products available through the VA (Veterans Affairs).
This position would not necessarily require a Masters level degree but does require a bachelor’s degree, military or sales experience. More specifically, this would require knowledge of real estate lending and experience with loan processing.
At USAA, financial advisors are there to assist in the wealth building process for its customers. According to 47 salary reviews on Glassdoor, the average compensation for these professionals is $53,137, but pushes to over $60,000 in total compensation.9
Similar to a career in the military itself, it’s more about the benefits and coverage than salary. Employee benefits really stand out to USAA employees who rated that category with 4.4 out of 5 stars.10 These include a generous health and wellness plan, comprehensive medical, dental and vision plans, along with wellness and wealth building programs.11 These ‘wealth building’ programs include a 401(k) match up to 8% of the employee’s salary.12 There are also abundant continuing education programs, demonstrating that USAA believes in investing in its employees.
There are also a wide range of scholarships and grants awarded to the military when it comes to education, most notably the ‘Post 9/11 GI Bill’. Many people don’t realize that the benefits of the GI bill apply to post-graduate studies as well as undergraduate degrees.13 Highlights of the bill are the payment of 100% of state school tuition (or up to $21,970.46 for a private university, per academic year), a housing allowance, and an annual book stipend of up to $1000.14 Here are some frequently asked questions to see what programs apply to your specific circumstances. One of the most often-cited drawbacks to a obtaining a Master’s degree is the cost, so this benefit is a major plus!
Online Masters in Finance Degree
If you are pursuing a career in finance or are changing careers, earning an online Master’s in Finance degree goes a long way towards obtaining a financial position. Similar to the way military members begin with a leg up if they enter with a 4-year degree (often considered the officer training route) an advanced degree should give employees at USAA a leg up and the ability to move up through the organization quicker.
A Masters in Finance degree is a great program to separate yourself from other candidates. These programs teach the basic financial skills necessary for today’s careers in finance. And it’s increasingly becoming a prerequisite for candidates without a financial background. To reach the higher ranked positions at USAA such as Director, a Master’s degree in Finance or similar advanced degree such as an online MBA in Finance will go a long way.
If you are a military veteran or in a military family and are looking to pursue a career in finance, USAA is a great place to start, in our opinion.
Considering that USAA already targets 30% hiring for military and their families, you have an immediate advantage in getting a foot in the door. And an advanced degree sets you on a trajectory towards a long, fulfilling and well-compensated career in finance.