The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) is a Texas-based Fortune 500 diversified financial services group of companies including a Texas Department of Insurance regulated reciprocal inter-insurance exchange and subsidiaries offering banking, investing, and insurance to people and families that serve, or served, in the United States military. At the end of 2015, there were 11.4 million members.
USAA was founded in 1922 by a group of U.S. Army officers as a mechanism for mutual self-insurance when they were unable to secure auto insurance because of the perception that they, as military officers, were a high-risk group. USAA has since expanded to offer banking and insurance services to past and present members of the Armed Forces, officers and enlisted, and their immediate families.
The company was one of the pioneers of direct marketing and most of its business is conducted over the Internet or telephone using employees instead of agents.
The organization was originally called the United States Army Automobile Association. In 1924, the name was changed to United Services Automobile Association, when commissioned officers of other U.S. military services became eligible for membership. The company opened offices in Frankfurt, Germany, and London, England early in its history. The company was formed based on a meeting of twenty five United States Army Officers on June 22, 1922 at the Gunter Hotel to discuss the procurement of reliable and economical auto insurance.
USAA is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, occupying 286 acres (116 ha) (a former horse farm) in the largest single-occupancy office building in the world, exceeding the size of the The Pentagon on the city's northwest side.
USAA is a pioneer of the concept of direct marketing; most of its business is conducted over the Internet or telephone using employees instead of agents. Until the 1960s the bulk of its business was conducted via mail. In the late 1960s, USAA began a transition from mail to phone-based sales and service. A toll-free number was launched in 1978, and Internet sales and service were launched in 1999 via its website.
The organization started offering homeowner's and life insurance in the 1960s, and brokerage and investment management services in the 1970s, and banking services in the 1980s.
USAA offered restricted membership to civilians between September 2009 and August 2013. This membership provided access to USAA’s investment products, most bank deposit products, and life insurance. Auto and property insurance policies were not included for non-military members due to eligibility restrictions.
Lines of business
Property, casualty, and life insurance
USAA offers a range of personal property and casualty (P&C) insurance, including automobile insurance, homeowner insurance, renters' insurance, as well as umbrella and personal property insurance. In addition to P&C insurance, USAA provides whole life insurance, term life insurance, and annuities. USAA's life insurance policies, while not completely unique in the industry, are different from most offerings since they do not include a war-exclusion clause.
Banking services are provided by USAA Federal Savings Bank. The bank was established on December 30, 1983. According to USAA's 2015 Annual Report to Members, USAA held over $62.549 billion in deposits with more than 6.3 million accounts, making the company the 28th largest bank in the world. This is remarkable as the company has a sole branch at its headquarters in San Antonio, Texas.
USAA Federal Savings Bank's bank lobby located in San Antonio is its only full-service banking location. Other cities, however, hold financial centers, often near military bases, which provide advice and assistance in obtaining services of any kind offered by USAA, in addition to opening those accounts online. Limited service locations (or 'financial centers') cannot process deposits or withdrawals, other than those conducted at USAA ATMs located at the financial centers; ATM, in addition to teller withdrawals and deposits may also be made at the bank lobby in San Antonio, Texas.
Banking services can be accessed in person, by mail, by phone, or through the internet. USAA Federal Savings Bank provides members with the ability to deposit checks to their accounts using mobile applications on the Apple iPhone and iPad, mobile devices with Google's Android operating system, and Microsoft's Windows Phone. USAA was the first bank in the world to develop and deploy remote depositing by the Apple iPhone and holds a patent to this technology that has since been licensed widely by the banking industry across the world.
USAA also offers ATM fee rebates (up to $15/month), free standard checks for the life of the account, free online bill pay, and bank-by-mail services. USAA was one of the few major banks to begin offering American Express cards in 2006 in addition to their traditional offering of MasterCard. USAA was one of the few banks that were part of the initial rollout of Apple's Apple Pay. USAA has released that over one-million members are using Apple's Touch ID, utilizing their fingerprint to securely log on to the USAA Mobile Application on Apple's iPhones and iPads.
Major banking competitors include Bank of America-Military Bank, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, and the Navy Federal Credit Union.
Investing and financial planning
USAA provides a discount brokerage service and a family of no-load mutual funds. Mutual funds established by other companies and can be purchased as well as held by USAA investment accounts (or IMCO). USAA also offers free financial advice to members, as well as services which require agreement to pay a given fixed rate for services such as financial planning service.
Through its Alliance Services Company (ASC), USAA runs a mail-order catalog service specializing in the sale of diamonds and jewelry. In addition to the above, ASC has secured a variety of discounted services for its members. These include travel-related services obtained through rental car alliances with Avis Budget Group and Hertz Corporation, for example, as well as discounts on cruise travel. Their retail alliances incorporate others such as FTD, FedEx, and ADT Security Services.
For its own investment purposes, USAA operates a real estate company which has holdings including major office buildings, industrial buildings, federal government buildings, hotels, and other major properties throughout the country with an excess of $15 billion of assets under management. Some of these include holdings include:
USAA's mission statement indicates its focus to serve its niche market, which consists of members of the U.S. military and their immediate families. To that end, the Association has always marketed directly to members of the U.S. military. USAA membership is offered to officers and enlisted personnel, including those on active duty, those in the National Guard and Reserve, Officer candidates in commissioning programs (Academy, ROTC, OCS/OTS) and all those who have served in the aforementioned categories and who have retired or have been discharged honorably. Children of USAA members are also eligible to purchase USAA's P&C insurance products, and former members of USAA are allowed to resume membership at any time (without an age limit).
Eligibility can be determined using its website; however, the site does not contain a comprehensive statement of eligibility. USAA has, in the past, published a list of other eligible persons including special agents of the FBI and Secret Service, agents of the various military investigative services (NCIS, OSI, CI and CID), U.S. Foreign Service Officers, and officers from a variety of other smaller agencies. Recently, USAA has been sharpening its focus on members of the military. So, people working for certain non-military agencies that were accommodated in the past may find that they are no longer eligible.
Historically, only U.S. military officers (among certain other federally sworn officers) were eligible to join USAA, with descendants of USAA members able to purchase insurance from USAA-CIC. It did not matter if one was an active duty or retired officer; one could join at any time. In 1973, membership was opened to members of the National Guard and Reserves, and in 1996, eligibility was expanded to enlisted members of the armed services. As the number of persons who have served on active duty in an enlisted status in the U.S. Armed Forces is quite large, USAA chose to limit the establishment of eligibility to those who were currently on active duty or who had recently separated. The same time limit on establishment of eligibility was then applied to military officers. As USAA's capacity for taking on new members expanded, eligibility criteria relaxed. In 2008, USAA expanded membership eligibility to all military personnel and retirees, and all veterans who separated after 1996. In November 2009, USAA expanded eligibility requirements to offer coverage to anyone who has ever served honorably in the US Military.
Auto and property insurance and some banking services require that the customer meet membership eligibility criteria. USAA investment products as well as deposit-only banking services are available to non-members.
Of the top ten automobile insurance competitors, USAA is the only provider that restricts service to members of the United States military and their immediate families.
One of the characteristics that allows USAA to operate differently than most other Fortune 500 companies is that it is not a corporation. The United Services Automobile Association is an inter-insurance exchange, the establishment of which is provided for under the Texas Insurance Code. This insurance exchange is made up of current and former military officers and NCOs who have taken out P&C policies with USAA; thus they simultaneously are insured by each other and, as a group, own USAA's assets. Theoretically, this implies that each member could be held completely responsible for all the losses of all the other members. However, the insurance code (Sec 942.142) stipulates that should an entity such as USAA accrue a substantial amount of assets, member liability is limited only to the premiums they have paid to USAA. In other words, if an enormous disaster were to result in claims that would wipe out all the assets of USAA, individual members could not legally be called upon to pay for any amount USAA is unable to pay out in claims.
Other insurance services are provided by a variety of wholly owned subsidiaries. Adult children of USAA members and U.S. military junior enlisted personnel make up a group known at USAA as "associate members" insured through a subsidiary called USAA-Casualty Insurance Company (USAA-CIC). USAA-CIC is not an insurance exchange but rather a Delaware Insurance Corporation. This is a subtle nuance but is important concerning the return of profits – described below. Non-standard-risk drivers are insured by subsidiaries like USAA's County Mutual Insurance Company or USAA-General Indemnity Company. USAA also insures members in Europe through its subsidiary, USAA Limited. It is uncommon for a U.S. based insurance company to provide international P&C coverage, but USAA does so because so many military families are stationed out-of-country.
Returning profits to the insured
Since there are no shareholders, profits are retained for financial strength or returned to the members. Returns are accomplished through a Subscriber's Account, commonly known as a distribution. Each year a portion of USAA's profit is retained as "unassigned," the rest is allocated to each member's Subscriber's Account using a formula based on the amount of premium the member paid that year as well as the member's Subscriber's Account balance. The allocation of capital to a member's Subscriber's Account occurs early in the calendar year. Late in the calendar year a portion of the member's Subscriber's Account is distributed to the member via checks or electronic funds transfer. Members with more than 40 years of membership also receive a special yearly "senior bonus" distribution which amounts to 10% of the member's Subscriber's Account balance. The entirety of the Subscriber's Account belongs to the member, but is not completely distributed until approximately 6 months after the member no longer has a USAA P&C policy. In 2015, USAA returned $1.666 billion to its members.
Those not eligible to join USAA but who are eligible to purchase insurance from USAA's subsidiaries, such as USAA-CIC, may receive dividends as declared by USAA.
Besides its headquarters in San Antonio, USAA has a second major office in Phoenix, AZ, and other operations in Colorado Springs, CO; Norfolk, VA; Tampa, FL; Highland Falls, NY; London, England; Frankfurt, Germany; and Plano, TX.
The company also operates Financial Centers in Annapolis, MD; Arlington, VA; Clarksville, TN; Colorado Springs, CO; Columbus, GA; El Paso, TX; Fayetteville, NC; Highland Falls, NY; Jacksonville, NC; Junction City, KS; Killeen, TX; Oceanside, CA; San Antonio, TX; San Diego, CA; Virginia Beach, VA and Washington, D.C.
As of 2016, USAA has expanded its Bitcoin integration to all members.
USAA Chairman of the Board Gen. Lester Lyles, USAF (Ret.), announced on Aug. 28, 2014 that USAA’s Chief Operating Officer Stuart Parker has been named to succeed current CEO Joe Robles when he retires at the end of February 2015. USAA Capital Corporation President Carl Liebert will succeed Parker in the role of chief operating officer, effective immediately. Parker is a former USAF officer. He has been with USAA for 16 years, serving in various positions, most recently as COO and CFO. Liebert is a former U.S. Navy officer, and joined the USAA management team in 2013.
USAA experienced much growth under its former CEO, retired Air Force Brigadier General Robert F. McDermott. The USAA building was constructed under his tenure and McDermott was behind USAA's shift from service-by-mail to service-by-phone. He was succeeded as CEO by retired Air Force General Robert Herres. It was under Herres that USAA expanded its services to enlisted members of the military and developed Internet based financial services. Following General Herres as CEO was Robert G. Davis, a former Army officer who came to USAA with experience in a variety of financial services companies. Davis is said to have changed the culture at USAA; during his time at USAA, membership, assets and net worth grew significantly. His tenure, however, was not without controversy. Davis oversaw USAA's first layoffs and by some reports had a confrontational style of leadership. Davis had indicated to USAA employees that he intended to continue to lead USAA until 2010, however, he retired in December 2007. The nature of his retirement seems to have been precipitous, as USAA CEO Josue Robles has stated that upon assuming the role of CEO, "I thought I was just going to be a temporary CEO and (the board) said, 'Guess what? The permanent CEO is you'."
USAA is subject to insurance regulation and examination by state regulators as well as federal entities like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Its records are audited by Ernst & Young as well as the major financial rating agencies, who rate both USAA and many of its subsidiaries.
USAA has consistently received the highest customer service ratings available to financial services companies, including those not in its niche. For its highly rated customer service, in 2002 JD Power awarded USAA with its Chairman's Award, which at that time had been awarded to ten companies, none of them in the financial services arena.
A 2007 Forrester Research report identified USAA as the leader in customer advocacy based on a customer survey. USAA retained the top spot on Forrester Research's study in 2008 and 2009.
In its May 2009 issue, Consumer Reports named USAA's brokerage division as the top rated discount brokerage service in the United States.
In a survey of 145 companies conducted by Zogby International, USAA ranked #1 in customer service out of 145 American companies.
As of the end of 2015, USAA employs more than 28,200 people at its offices throughout the world.
|Trading Platforms||USAA mobile smartphone application, USAA website|
|Phone||210-531-USAA (8722), 800-531-USAA|
|Address||San Antonio, Texas United States|
I have been with USAA since the late 60s. Always had great service until recently. I hadn't traded for about 9 months, or so, and wanted to resume my normal trading...trading stocks and options. When I tried, I was denied entry. Upon enquiry I was told I needed to get permission. So, I filled out their forms and it came back denied due to low annual income. I am 75, retired for 13 years, $40,000 annual income with no long-term debts, $70,000 in stock assets and single. I am in the process of getting a new broker who can give me what I want. Being written 11 Apr 2016
We've been USAA members for 40+ years and have never had anything but excellent service at very competitive prices. We recently consolidated all our investment accounts at USAA (Roth and Traditional IRAs, a joint brokerage account and individual brokerage accounts). We have never had a problem with any of the USAA products and services that wasn't resolved with minimal bother. It is very convenient to be able to move $$$ between accounts. As a long term INVESTOR, I can't speak much to the issues brought up by you traders, but if I wanted to gamble, I'd go to Las Vegas or maybe buy Dutch tulip bulbs.
I am in the process of transferring my accounts from USAA. I opened accounts with them when they opened an office in Atlanta. Our new wealth advisor left USAA in March of this year and I was NOT made aware of it until October when I called to speak to him. The advisor who inherited our accounts never called in the 7 months he supposedly managed our business. While I am happy with their insurance and banking arms, our experience on the brokerage side was a disaster......I cannot recommend them to anyone.
So, I have extensively used USAA Brokerage for about 4 years now. I also use Ameritrade extensively. I am a fairly active trader and primarily trade options. I make 3-4 trades per week with most of them being options. I have had a margin account, as well as, a cash only account, multiple times. I use this service sparingly due to my notes mentioned below.
Pros: It is a clean browser site with a nice interface, has a fairly decent mobile application as well, and the customer service is very good (when you need to call in to discuss matters). That is where the pros end.
Substantial flaws in accounting algorithms/ledger settlement: What I can tell you is there brokerage system is significantly flawed. Over the years of observing how cash moves from my USAA checking account, into and out of the brokerage account and observing their ledger settlements, it is quite obvious to me the 'under the hood' programming of accounting algorithms, dependencies. settlement recording, and just money flow in general is borderline disastrous. I have on occasions been able to trade options for double my cash position (twice the buying power - which should not be available with options trades). I have made withdrawals from my brokerage account instantly into my checking account, and the next day still able to trade with the funds that I moved into my checking account. I have, using a margin account, made a buy/sell (only 1 round trip) on the same day, and their system incorrectly issued a maintenance call restricting my account. I have seen accounting errors/flaws such as these mentioned above dozens of times that simply do not exist with other more reputable brokerages.
Website/mobile app issues: I have also experienced the website errors where part of the interface just simply disappears until you log out and log back in. I have had duplicate order issues, delayed order issues, substantially frustrating. If you enter an order (online or on their mobile application), you can see the order from their mobile application, however; if ANY part of the order is filled (say you're buying 500 shares and 50 of them filled), the order is NO LONGER VIEWABLE from the mobile application to cancel or modify - you absolutely MUST login on the website. It simply disappears.
Changes without notification: It was roughly December 2013 and I had been using USAA brokerage service for about 2 years. I was ALWAYS able to transfer funds from my checking directly into my brokerage service and trade with them instantly. I login to my account 1 day and I have a maintenance call. I was in a CASH ACCOUNT and not a margin account. So, I call in, and the guy proceeds to tell me "oh yeah, we recently changed our funds transfer service and you have to wait 1 day before you can trade with transferred funds now". I ask him, how should I have known that, and why was there no notification or alert? Why were the funds 'available to trade' if they aren't actually available to trade? He states "its a new change, and you have to wait 1 day now or it will restrict your account". Needless to say, I am now in a "free ride restriction" due to yet another FAILED programming update associated with a compliance requirement change that they decided to implement. At the time, I googled this, and found 3-4 other USAA brokerage members upset posting about the exact same issue, which means there are 100s of people impacted (not everyone will go to a forum to complain about it)
Overhead associated with putting an order in: On most platforms, you can enter an order, even complex options, very fast. On USAA, it takes at least 45-60 seconds (no exaggeration whatsoever) to get an order entered before you can submit it and that's with me knowing exactly where the delays are. That same order can be entered and executed on better platforms in 10 seconds tops. This is VERY bad if you're in anything volatile, or an option which can move % points every 10 seconds.
That is just the beginning of the problems with USAA brokerage. The list goes on and on. If you have ANY problems, mentioned above, YES, you will have to call into the 800 number. It happens very frequently and they are very helpful, but it is very time sensitive for me typically.
Summary: Decent if you are a long-term investor and don't have 'active trading' days ever. Absolutely AWFUL if you are an active trader and need to make quick decisions.
USAA has yet to join the modern brokerage world. Too many functions require you call the brokerage during business hours to make a change to your stock brokerage account.
They are way behind on modern features. Should you ever decide you no longer wish to reinvest dividends on a stock, you have to make a phone call during business hours and request the representative to do it for you. If you are a night owl like me, it's needless delay that shows poor programming and a lack of customer regard.
There is NO way that USAA deserves a rating of 3 1/2 stars. A TERRIBLE online broker. Fees are NOT competitive unless you purchase less than 1000 shares. Website is poor, with a convoluted design. Available research is minimal, in comparison with Fidelity, and other top tier online brokers. USAA deserves maybe 2 stars. And even that would be generous.
STAY AWAY!!! Normally I like USAA for everything, however I opened a brokerage account to consolidate assets. Big mistake, I learned real quick the trading platform is very primitive, give the trader very limited resources especially if trying to trade options, you cannot put together any option spreads online you have to call in and hope the person you are talking to sets your position up correctly... So far I haven't spoken to a "licensed broker" who understands complicated or advanced options trades. these are very simple to set up, I can do it my phone using other brokerage platforms, but not USAA's software. Frankly I'm not even sure why USAA offers option trading or even a brokerage account due to the many limitations most other firms have continually upgraded to stay current.
I've banked with USAA for years, but their investment division is a mess! Don't bother.
I've had retirement and trading accounts with USAA for years. USAA's execution of trades is fantastic and the price per trade is quite reasonable at $5.95. If you don't have $50000 in assets, you shouldn't be trading, anyway.
I had been an investment advisor with USAA for many years. Many of the comments here are absolutely correct:
1. the base trade fee is for 1000 shares or less, after that it is VERY expensive --> .01 per share there after (OUCH!). / slow order execution / options are weak point (phone only) / high margin costs / poor platform / service reps who only want to sell you something
2. good customer service throughout the company, but that has changed to less than stellar. it is also why I left the firm... the other areas of USAA are INCENTIVIZED, to transfer as many calls to "Member Advise and Solutions (MAS)" (USAA's investment management company's representatives).
3. *ALL* phone based USAA employees are paid salary, however they are given incentive to push products (even an auto claim rep is). For instance, you call in about your auto insurance being too high, they will just transfer you over to MAS because to them it sounds like a "budget issue".
4. 'Ticky Mark' mentality. remember point 2? Well in MAS, if I got you on the phone when you most likely called in for something entirely different (for any number of reasons), the only goals I had was to open up the conversation and sell you something. even if you open up a brokerage account and move $50 in it that counts as a 'new brokerage account' under me... ticky mark for me. You mention you want to be more conservative in your investment or want a way to harvest gains.... out comes the Flexible Retirement Annuity phone presentation! (Hopefully you can move $5k into it. :-) and that counts as an annuity for me... whether it is for $5k or $500000.... doesn't matter even what kind of annuity.
You get the point. If you speak to a USAA rep, you MUST think this first at any given moment: What are they trying to sell me?
THey are looking to 'deepen the relationship'... which simply means you have more products and services with them and not as many elsewhere.
Banking is good, they pioneered mobile deposit, have good credit card rates (not great) and no incentives. they also don't have many fees on their credit cards.
All in all, if you want USAA think twice.
You can do better. I had a USAA account for years, but had to transfer it out for compliance reasons. The transfer data were garbled; the garble might not have been USAA's fault, but then again it might have been. (USAA could have resolved the compliance issue, but chose not to.)
A couple years later, after the compliance issue went away, I opened another account at USAA. Recently (fall of 2013) USAA notified me that I could get all documents electronically, or all documents on paper, PERIOD, effective December 1. In any non-ROTH, non-IRA account, I insist on getting my trade confirmations on paper. Everything else I like to get electronically Sure, I could get confirmations electronically, and try to remember to print them out, but that's asking for trouble. So I chose paper. Believe it or not, once I chose paper FOR FUTURE DOCUMENTS, the folks at USAA wiped out my electronic access to a decade or more of electronic records! Amazing -- and one more reason why I always insist on paper confirmations!
I'm now in the process of moving that account to another brokerage, and I won't look back.
Cannot use trailing stops on USAA brokerage, a big disadvantage.
Investments are not USAA's strong suit. Seemed slow to respond and wanted to challenge or delay simple requests. Shifted two accounts to my credit union's server (Pershing) and am delighted with their attention. USAA auto insurance and MasterCard seem very competitive. The magic has never translated to Investments.
USAA attempts to leverage its auto insurance reputation to other, much weaker parts of the company. The brokerage and banking arms of the company are particularly weak. At times, employees will invade your financial privacy. In addition, in the past, I closed a credit card account only to find out months later that the account was not closed. I have also been advised on two occasions that someone had attempted to gain access to my account, when that person was me. And the list goes on and on. USAA employees are friendly enough, but attention to detail is lacking. And since we are talking money here (your money, that you worked hard for), you should look elsewhere for financial matters
The information about availability of USAA services is incomplete. It's also available to retired military AND, recently includes all honorably discharged veterans as well.
I qualify for the latter and joined in 2011. I looked into their brokerage services and wasn't impressed. Can't beat their car insurance rates, though!
Actually they do not advertise this, but anyone can invest with USAA. They only apply the military restrictions to their auto and property insurances.
A terrible broker. Very weak tools, and poorly designed website. It is extremely weak if you want to trade stocks, rather than buy and hold. Research resources are dreadful. Any of the top tier discount brokers offer a much better experience. If you use USAA brokerage, you are essentially limiting yourself while also spending more than you should, especially if you trade more than 1000 shares. - See more at: http://www.savings-secrets.com/brokerages/usaa-review.aspx#sthash.0Oge18NZ.dpuf