Veteran Employer Spotlight: USAA (Financial Services)

Throughout the course of 2009 I am spotlighting companies large and small who understand the value that veterans bring to their organization. These are companies that are successfully utilizing the many skills and talents of military members. These organizations demonstrate a sincere desire to bring more veterans into their companies by doing some or all of the following: establishing a specific military hiring initiative as part of its overall HR strategy; recruiting at military job fairs, through military job boards and on military installations; preparing their recruiters and/or hiring managers on how to screen veteran resumes and interview service members; and, updating their marketing materials to attract the military.

USAA is a financial services company headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, with offices in Phoenix, Colorado Springs and Tampa. USAA provides a wide range of insurance, financial and banking services for military service members and their families. It was founded in 1922 by a group of Army officers who wanted to self-insure each other after they were unable to secure auto insurance due to the perception they were a high-risk group. Recruiting veterans has been central to USAA’s successes from the beginning. Says John DiPiero, Colonel, USAF, Retired, USAA’s senior officer/NCO Military Talent Manager and one of four sourcer/ recruiters for USAA’s military recruiting team, “Who better to understand the needs of the military service member and his or her family than those who have served themselves?”

As part of their holistic approach, USAA has created a stand-alone “center of excellence” for any issues associated with the USAA military community. This new center of excellence focuses on enhancing their ability to attract, develop and retain veterans and military spouses.    It appears to be working: USAA has been recognized in the top 10 of GI Jobs’ Top 50 Military Friendly Employers since the award’s inception in 2003. It is currently #4 overall and the #1 financial services company. It is also #1 on Military Spouse Magazine’s 2009 Top 10 Military Spouse friendly employers. Finally, USAA was recognized by, where America’s military connects with civilian careers, as a 2009 Most Valuable Employer (MVE) for Military.

USAA employs more than 4,000 veterans and military spouses, about 18.5% of its total population.  Roughly 250 of those employees are active in the National Guard and Reserves, and at any time 25-30 of those Guard/Reserve members are deployed somewhere around the globe. In 2008, USAA hired over 300 veterans and more than 150 military spouses.  They source talent from all segments of the military community, including senior officers and NCOs, junior officers, wounded warriors, junior NCOs and military spouses.  In fact, USAA’s wounded warrior recruiter, Brian Neuman, was wounded in Fallujah on Veteran’s Day, 2004. Brian worked for the Wounded Warrior Project prior to coming to USAA in 2008. His primary focus is on sourcing wounded warriors for employment and supporting them during the recruiting and on-boarding process.

Veterans and military spouses excel in a variety of areas at USAA.  Veterans exist at the senior most levels in the organization, including members of its Board of Directors, executive management group and other managerial roles.  They have also achieved success in call center operations, financial planning, human resources, information technology, banking, insurance, strategy, corporate finance and every other  aspect of the business that requires discipline, leadership and a “can do” attitude.

The USAA Military Talent Management team uses a number of “best practices” for attracting service members and their spouses to their organization. A military hiring “best practice” that I advocate in both my hiring guide and my “Translating the Military Resume and Interview Tips” web seminar is to use dedicated recruiters for military hiring, so that they may become the experts in understanding military skill sets, translating military resumes, and knowing where to place veterans in an organization. Another best practice mentioned in both the hiring guide and my “Military Applicant Sourcing Options” web seminar is to source veterans from military job fairs and job boards. And, yet another best practice reviewed in my “Marketing to Attract the Military Applicant” web seminar is to reach out to veteran organizations, the Guard and Reserves, and other places where service members can naturally be found to create awareness in the military community about your company and to passively recruit. The USAA Military Talent Management team can attest to the effectiveness of all of these recruiting tactics.

In 2008, they attended more than 100 military related events and used more than 18 different websites for job postings and mining.  Both recruiters and hiring managers attend the job fairs. They also attend transition assistance briefings at many military installations. USAA also incorporates a very competitive employee referral program with monetary rewards for successful hires. In addition they attend quarterly meetings at the Center for the Intrepid at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, to brief transitioning wounded warriors regarding job searches and preparing for a civilian career.  They are also reaching out to another wounded warrior support group specifically dedicated to increasing IT skills.

Their Military Affairs team promotes financial solutions and services to current and prospective members while reinforcing and enhancing USAA’s image worldwide. The team, consisting of more than 50 military veterans with more than 1,200 years of combined military experience, strengthens relationships with USAA members through participation in a wide variety of venues.  These include Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR)/Service-sponsored activities, National Guard/Reserve Family Days, air shows, service academy visits, national conventions and conferences.  During 2008, the team attended more than 4,600 events reaching over one million attendees and responding to over 100,000 requests for USAA information, including requests for employment opportunities.

I was very pleased to hear that USAA uses on-the-job-training (OJT) programs for many of their positions including call centers, Six Sigma-related requirements, project management and financial planners, as I recently wrote a blog about how companies can use OJT programs to hire veterans. USAA has also created a junior military officer career development program for 30 recently separated JMOs that will give them a rotation through different aspects of the enterprise before they land in their initial assignment.

In terms of retention, the Military Talent Management team partners with management and executives and the newly hired vets to ensure that all are working toward the same goal of the service member’s successful transition to the corporate environment. USAA uses a combination of new employee onboarding which is specific for the veterans and mentors who are also veterans.  In addition, they have created an internal website, VetNet, designed as a veteran/military spouse social media site, which covers numerous subjects important to their employees.  Knowledge sharing and personal development is also very important, so an emphasis is placed on ensuring employees come to understand “all things military”. The Military Affairs team sponsors contests and events to educate USAA employees about the unique challenges the military community faces.

To view employment opportunities visit their career page. To learn more about USAA go to