Military Guide

“What Happens At USAA’s DigitalMilEx”… We’ll Tell You About It.

Doug Nordman USAA DigitalMilExI’m invited to USAA DigitalMilEx Conference again! This year it’s next week (26-27 October) at a San Antonio hotel near their headquarters building. I’ve also been invited to a behind-the-scenes visit on the day before.

Please give me your questions and comments— either on this post or by the “Contact me” page or by e-mail (NordsNords [at] Gmail). I’d love to ask USAA about their services, programs, and problems– and I’ll share what we learn there. If you have a complaint or a gripe, I can pass it on (anonymously or for further research) and we’ll figure out the issues. If you see something else that USAA should be doing for us members, then I’ll take it up with them.

This is one of the times when we bloggers can interrogate have a thoughtful conversation with USAA executives or dig into statistics on their programs. We’ll learn more about why they’re shutting down most of their financial service centers. I’ll see what’s new from their Innovation Lab and what’s next for their financial services (*cough* business checking?!? *cough*) or their mobile app. I’ll find out how their brokerage business is doing since the big outsourcing.

I’ll have a chance to buy my cousin (a USAA employee) a frosty beverage or two and find out what really sucks* about working there. (* Nothing. I’ve done this for five years, and he’s still ridiculously happy at his career.)  I’ll network with over a hundred bloggers, podcasters, and entrepreneurs who have a military audience.


Image of the USAA DigitalMilEx 2015 badge |

Maybe I’m getting a new badge, too.

And yes, at these conferences USAA has been known to show off their underwear machine. Rumor is that… well… *sigh*… I’ll get back to that at the end of this post. It’s very sad.


Because first and foremost (and “at the front of the post”) the Federal Trade Commission wants me to disclose to you that I’m USAA’s sponsored guest. The FTC worries that you won’t be able to figure it out if the FTC didn’t make us explain it.


** “Official FTC Disclosure” **

Here’s what happens when you’re a sponsored guest:

  • USAA offers to pay for transportation, lodging, and meals.
  • They give us a swag bag full of interesting books, corporate data, member demographics, and contact info for their staff. (Maybe with t-shirts, pens, and cell phone accessories).
  • They also let us drink as much of their coffee as we want. (Yeah, they kickstart a conference room full of hypercaffeinated military bloggers.)
  • Some of us even stay up way past our bedtime (on a school night!) quaffing adult beverages, exchanging what we’ve learned about USAA from our readers, and planning the next day’s interview questions.


What’s really happening

Here’s what USAA is really doing for me:

  • four nights in a hotel room with free WiFi (because jet lag),
  • seven free meals plus the closing social’s heavy pupus,
  • the swag bag, and
  • all the free coffee I can drink.

I appreciate USAA’s offer to pick up my plane tickets, too, but once again I’m handling my own transportation because after DigitalMilEx my spouse and I are kicking off another month of slow travel.

The FTC fears that USAA’s blandishments will cause me to be less… objective… at attempting to influence your personal finance decisions.  Of course, you’re only 500 words into this post and you already know me a lot better than the FTC.

Yet USAA and I have more of a business relationship than the FTC realizes. My spouse and I are 35-year members (back then USAA insured your car’s “in-dash cassette deck”). Our daughter and her spouse are dual-military USAA members— they appreciate USAA’s support during her command’s Hurricane Matthew evacuation and his deployment’s Silkworm missile attacks. My father is also a USAA member, and the member service reps in USAA’s call center know exactly how to handle a conservator’s appointment letter for insured CD rates to help pay for an Alzheimer’s care facility.

But wait, there’s even more. For the last five years, I’ve been able to ask USAA’s Corporate Communications group about all of your questions. (I usually get an answer right away– they joke that it’s handled by their “Team Nords”– at least I think they’re joking.) A few days later they’ll connect me with an exec who answers followup questions during a 20-minute on-the-record interview. Earlier this year they offered me free Pro Bowl tickets to join their media team for the week of pre-game events. What it really meant is that I could spend four days discussing military personal finance with senior USAA execs and thousands of Oahu servicemembers & families.  During that week I learned a lot about USAA’s corporate plans (from the people who make the plans) and I heard an earful from USAA members.


Ask me about…

This year’s DigitalMilEx connects us with USAA’s Communications team, their financial advisors, their member service execs, and their Military Transition group. We’ll dig deeply into the statistics of their social-media outreach from an exec who literally has a PhD in the subject. We’ll hear updates on USAA’s financial-readiness programs and their Educational Foundation. We’ll learn how they’re attracting new members and retaining them. (I’m particularly interested in how they’ll support multi-generational members from WWII veterans all the way to third-millennium kids.) We’ll find out how their big-data research is helping to reduce member expenses even further.

We’ll learn more about USAA’s hiring statistics of active-duty servicemembers, veterans, and spouses. [Please contact me if you’re in those groups and interested in working for USAA. You might not know insurance or banking or finance, but they still want to talk with you. They’ll even offer free software developer training to help code more mobile apps. If you’re a leader, they want to talk with you about executive development. Seriously.] USAA wants nearly a third of their employees to be Reserve/National Guard servicemembers, veterans, or military spouses. They even have military billets on their staff for active-duty servicemembers.

We’ll also hear from an all-star group of authors, bloggers, and podcasters. Many of us were at FinCon last month or we’re online together all year long.

Best of all, USAA invites a combination of alumni (*ahem*) and new guests. If we haven’t met yet, I’ll be the balding pony-tailed middle-aged guy in the aloha shirt. Please come over to our group, interrupt me, and introduce yourself to say hello. I’d like to learn more about what brought you to USAA, and your readers know things about the company that I haven’t heard yet. I might even know the answers to some of your questions.


USAA’s Underwear Machine

I’m sorry to report the rumor that USAA’s underwear machine is no longer in the building.

For at least the last five years, it was there to support (so to speak) employee fitness. If a USAA worker wanted to get in a workout but didn’t have their exercise clothes with them, the underwear machine could provide the gear for them to still meet their fitness goals (and to earn a rebate on their employee health insurance). Next week I hope to confirm the details of its demise.

Besides the underwear question, what else do you want me to find out about USAA? What member-service issues can I discuss for you? Any other comments?

About the Author Doug Nordman

I retired in 2002 after 20 years in the Navy's submarine force. I wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other financially independent servicemembers and veterans.

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