The Innovator: Greg Schwartz

It was 5 o'clock on a warm July 2012 morning in San Antonio when 300 people came into formation on a soccer field. The forecast called for a 93-degree day.

Drill sergeants were there, eager to break in the new recruits. Push-ups. Sit-ups. Calisthenics. Orders barked at the highest volumes.

The workout ended with a mile-and-a-half run. At the conclusion, Greg Schwartz couldn't even lift his arms.

But this wasn't boot camp. Well, maybe it was. The 300 trainees weren't new recruits to the armed forces—they were IT professionals. The drill sergeants were retired from active duty. All were employees at USAA.

The arm-weary Schwartz had been the company's CIO since 2004. He sponsored the boot-camp program—called Zero-Day PT—in 2009 as a way to train his own people to understand just who USAA serves. “You learn about the military. You learn about what our members go through so you can better appreciate what you do every single day,” Schwartz said. “It brings them closer to our mission.”

That mission, as Schwartz explained, is to provide a customer service experience unparalleled in the financial services industry. USAA earned more than $20 billion in revenue in its 2012 fiscal year by providing banking, investing, and insurance to U.S. service members and their families. And over the years, USAA has racked up numerous accolades for keeping its customers happy. Whether in a combat zone or back on U.S. soil, USAA members—the soldiers, sailors, Marines, ...

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