An Interview with
The CIO of USAA, a full-service, branchless financial services
operation, sees much more to banking than e-transactions.
Interviewed by James Stanier
Technology has improved the banking experience vastly over the last two decades, removing a number of barriers that once
existed between bank and customer. Now
it is possible to bank at anytime, any where
around the world. USAA is a financial
services company, primarily serving the
military population, running a branchless
operation. Customer interaction is
conducted via mail, phone, SMS, and the
Internet. XRDS editor James Stanier spoke
to Greg Schwartz, chief information officer
and senior vice president of USAA, about
some of the innovations and products USAA
is offering its customers, how the company
has changed since the days of banking by
mail, and his advice to graduates who are
thinking of working in the financial software
sector. Schwartz earned his bachelor’s
degree in management information
systems from Texas State University in
1982. He earned his master degree in
finance from St. Mary’s University, where he
graduated with honors in 1989.
James stanier: in your time at Usaa,
what are some of the most interesting
innovations that you’ve worked on?
GREG SCH WAR TZ: I really think I should
start with the mobile applications, because
the last three or four years have been
extremely exciting for us in the banking
space in particular. I think you’ve heard
about our remote check deposit, and it
really started from our Deposit@Home.
We had a problem in the bank—we’re a
branchless bank, so to speak, and the
“We hire between
75–125 college grads
every year. One thing
we tell them is that
we are hiring them
to be leaders, not
problem with being a branchless bank is
that you can get money out of ATMs all over
the world, but you can’t deposit checks. So
that was the problem we tried to solve from
a technology standpoint.
What we came up with was a very
innovative way of doing it from your
computer at home with your scanner, and
that’s what we called Deposit@Home.
Js: it’s definitely a very cool application,
and you were the first to do it.
Gs: Instant access to your money is cool.
I’ve done a demonstration where I’ve
taken a picture of a check with the app,
ripped it up, and handed it back to the
person! I always recommend waiting three
days before discarding the check, but it’s
extremely fun to see people’s faces!
Js: What else have you been working on?
Gs: In the insurance space we’ve been using
geocoding. By using the GPS location, we
have the ability to better underwrite or
insure the property. For example, let’s say
you’re in a territory known for wildfires,
or earthquakes, or hurricanes. The way
most companies gives quotes is by whole