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USAA's Greg Schwartz Keeps IT's Focus On The Customer Experience

At USAA, CIO Greg Schwartz leads an IT organization whose mission is to innovate on behalf of its active and retired military member customers.

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The company has created a group specifically responsible for what Schwartz calls “radical innovation.” The group — known as “Rev Dev,” for “revolutionary development” — has its own budget and works with a variety of technology companies, “looking for ways to take advantage of emerging technologies to solve business problems and challenges,” he says. “When we find a good idea and it prototypes well, then we rapidly get it into our product development queue.” One such recent innovation is a way to deposit multiple checks at once via mobile banking.

Another way USAA drives innovation is through its Innovation Communities for the Enterprise, or ICE, an interactive program that allows employees in any part of the business to generate and propose new ideas. “On the IT side we constantly are mining that tool for great ideas,” Schwartz says. Additionally, USAA runs an innovation center lab open to all employees for brainstorming and idea development.

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USAA also launched a coding competition, called Code as ICE, which runs several times a year. It gives cross-functional teams business problems to solve. All the ideas submitted at the most recent competition “have the potential for us to fund and take to production,” Schwartz says. “Our employees are passionate about it, they work [the challenges] on their own time, they love the competition and they love the teamwork and exposure it gives to the business community. It’s all about keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive here at USAA.”

Schwartz’s commitment to fostering that entrepreneurial spirit typifies his approach to leadership. ”I try to be an inspirational leader, not a problem solver,” he says. “I work with my team setting big hairy audacious goals, really empowering my direct reports and my teammates to exceed those goals.”

Personal Snapshot

Greg Schwartz

CIO and senior VP of information technology services, USAA

IT organization: $1 billion budget, 2,500 employees

Career: Joined USAA in 1983, named to current position in 2004

Education: BS in management ­information systems, Texas State University; MBA in finance, St. Mary’s University

Hobbies: Boating, golfing, fantasy football (“I’m really good at it!”) and spending time with family

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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