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Driven by Data: A Journey to Health and Wealth

USAAs Darrius Jones shares his perspective on how leveraging data to improve his health parallels with how the financial institution leverages data to empower its members to be financially strong.

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How's everybody doing this afternoon? I guess? Morning still. Still morning. Yeah. Well, we had the great pleasure to spend time with, uh, Mr. Darrius Jones today. For those of you who've not had the privilege of getting to know Darrius, this is your one opportunity and it's, uh, it's a great, a great chance. I'm excited to talk to you, man. Um, maybe just for those who don't know you, maybe just share a little about your background, what you do at USAA, maybe just a little bit your story.

So, uh, Darrius Jones, USAA, I have the wonderful privilege of leading digital and design. Most people would call it the Chief Digital office. We just call it digital and design at USAA, uh, which is an insurance bank as well as a life insurance company for the military and their dependents.

That's amazing.

And I ride rollercoasters.

But you've had, you, Darrius also is like the resident expert on rollercoasters. This is also true. Um, you know, you and I have spent some time recently talking a little about, about your health journey, and I actually think there's some really interesting parallels between, what you've told me about your health journey and personal finance. Maybe just tell me a little bit about that and maybe how you'd see that parallel.

Yeah. It's, it's been a eye-opening experience, especially given what we do in financial services, uh, which is all data-driven. Um, a couple of years back, right after getting covid, I was diagnosed as an adult onset type one diabetic. I probably should have gone and played the lottery 'cause that's pretty rare. And I made a decision, that I was not gonna take the traditional route of, you know, daily insulin injections or a pump. And I started with a continuous glucose monitor.

And what I learned, in those three months of initially being diagnosed was that boy, like if I knew the impact of what I was eating on my health in general prior to having a crisis, I would probably be a different person.

And it was having that daily insight of I ate this, my blood sugar did this, I ate this, my blood sugar did this. Um, that really started to open my eyes to how we treat what we know about each other very differently.

When you have the data in the advice and when you think of financial services, it's a very similar equation in fact, we have more data available than we do for medicine. Um, but the advice, like when someone's spending paycheck to paycheck, do they have the person who can tell them not to, when a person is going to buy a car that they shouldn't be, who's gonna be the person to tell them what the impact to their future goals are? Um, and that's been a very parallel path now that I'm at USAA again, in trying to bring that advice and that telemetry to the masses.

I I love that too. when you think about the kind of data somebody gets from like, something like Glucose monitor or health app right? Or a fitness tracker, compared to the kind of data that a financial institution could give somebody in terms of feedback about their personal finances, right? Like, what do you think is the most valuable sort of data that a bank or a credit union or a FinTech could be giving, to to one of their customers or end users about their personal finances to help them make changes?

Yeah, it may sound foreign given most of us do not live paycheck to paycheck in this room, but when you think of understanding how you're spending aligns to people like you either based on where you live, how much you're making, what bills, what types of bills you have, that's invaluable.

Because we're all competitive in nature. You know, if, if 18 year old Darrius knew that he was spending 20% more than anyone else, even if I wanted to keep up with the Joneses, I am the Jones. Uh, we're trying to keep up with you, I want to keep up with the Joneses. Um, I, I would have less pressure to do so, right? So I think understanding where you fit and how you're spending relative to a cohort that you would identify with, um, I, I think that's an important set of data that we as an industry have to figure out how to put to work.

Uh, you know, it makes me think about, you know, the common missions that MX has and USAA have, it's, um, it's been a long time thing we've discussed and just the similarities. What is USAA's mission maybe with those who don't know it, and maybe just a little bit about us a for those who may not be aware of this amazing financial institution and insurance company, and what does that mission mean to you personally? And as you try to, you know, lead your teams and execute on the mission and try to impact these lives.

Listen, I work with 39,000 people who every day wake up and think about how do we provide financial security to the United States military and their families. It's that simple. Like I'll even, I'll go into a story. I know, you know, you, you like stories and I don't mind telling them. Yes. one of the most interesting experiences I had as an executive was the first time I did what we call y courting, um, I called it highjacking. And, and my boss was like, no, this isn't New Jersey. We're not stealing the things from people. We're listening.

courting is this experience that pretty much everyone who works in a customer experience, in our case, a member experience organization should do, which is just to listen to what your customers, our members are, are telling your, your member service representatives.

And it was less about what the person was telling the MSR, and it was the fact that the MSR asked them a question that, once again, I wish someone had asked 21 year old Darrius, this person was gonna, they, they were fresh outta bootcamp and they were going to buy a car, and the person just said, why? Like, this would've been a great opportunity to get a, you know, auto loan and auto insurance. But the rep asked why, and the person said, that's been my dream. And they said, yeah, but you're gonna live on base your, your next year. You're like, it's on Uncle Sam's dime. Like, go get a bike. Like, don't take the $20,000 loan, don't get the car, go get a bike. Mm-hmm. And like, that's what we do every day is we try to help people make the right decisions around their finances. Um, do we get it right all the time? 'm sure we don't like, we're, we're still a large organization. Uh, but when I get to see experiences like that firsthand, I know that we're facilitating that mission.

What's your personal sentiment as well on how maybe predatory lenders park right outside military bases, car dealerships right outside military bases going after exactly these kind of people. What's your, what's your sentiment about combating that?

Oh, it's horrific, right? You know, I have some family members who've recently enlisted, and I'm not gonna say they're lucky to have me as a uncle or a cousin, but in this case they are. Um, they said, oh, man, I was, you know, a little light on money and, you know, I went down the street and I remember what you told me, which is never go to one of those places, and I sat down and did the math. Um, and not everyone gets that opportunity.

I think there probably needs to be some more oversight because they are not just predatory, they're predatory against people who are a, vulnerable and, b, we need to be successful in the world. Mm-hmm. Um, and so can you imagine being a young enlisted person with an, you know, a bill that can be, you know, pretty much your entire paycheck to pay back something that you had for a moment in time? Um, I don't know. We gotta do something as an industry about that, but to your point, like they're there, um, the first thing we can do is educate people on what a good loan is and what a bad loan might be. Um but I think at some point in time we probably have to do something a little different.

I love this because it's personal to me. My dad was young enlisted men in the Navy, and, um, I just, it, I think about that had he made wrong choices, how that could have impacted my family forever.


And, our situation. I'm curious when you think about driving personalization and insights and trying to deliver at scale for the many, many millions of members that, that have the opportunity to, you know, bank and insure with USAA, how do you guys use data to drive innovation and to drive the organization's mission and objectives forward?

Yeah. When, when you look at it in terms of what we do with you, we are crawling, right? You know, there's crawl, walk, and run, and we are learning our way into how to scale some of the insights that we partner with you to deliver. Um, it's no small order, right? We had a situation where a senior executive took a snapshot and asked like, Hey, why did I get this? And, you know, tongue in cheek, we had to say, that wasn't for you, right? That's for the person who makes significantly less than you. And what we need to focus on is why did you get that right?


Um, and so we're, we're taking a test and learn, Christina Tanner is somewhere in the audience. Um, she, she has the dubious distinction of having to figure that out with the rest of the digital organization. But we take a very measured approach to the number of insights that we provide, who we provide them and, and what conditions we provide them under. Um, which, you know, as an organization that's taken some risk in the past with deposit at mobile and other things, I think it's a tried and true way to kind of put your foot in learn and figure out what your membership needs. Mm-hmm. but we'll start to accelerate over the next couple of, you know, months if not a year.

What are some of the sort of insights whether provided by MX or ones you guys have built

yourselves, what are some of the insights that have resonated most with members and you

think it maybe had the biggest impact on their finances?

Yeah. I, I think the, you know, duplicate, um, charge is, is one of those things how I, I'm one of those people who are like, what? Like why is UPS charging me twice on the same day and I recognize that I signed up for something that you only need one of twice? Um, I think once again, going back to, you know, if you're not living paycheck to paycheck, it doesn't matter. Um, but it still should. But if you are like a $20 duplicate charge could make the difference between you making all of your bills or not. And so that's one that I think has a profound impact across the membership, whether people recognize it or not.

I love that. Um, maybe just for the audience here, I mean, you have a lot of peers in the room, what's maybe a piece of advice just in closing that you maybe would given to the audiences they try to try to operate more mission driven, and maybe even trying to say operating mission driven is not gonna be something that's going to hurt the bottom line, right? And how those things can comp in each other. Any advice you give them in that, in that vein?

Yeah. Listen, there's the religion of being mission-driven and then there's the facts, right? Happy customers tend to stay with you, right? Happy members tend to stick with you throughout thick and thin, and we all know we make mistakes. Um, most of them are innocent in nature. Um, but if you are mission-driven, if you are focused on making a difference in the people who trust you with their money's lives, um, it pays for itself, right?

Yeah. I mean, I'll never forget, um, I won't mention names. One of our competitors, banking with them as well, and, uh, they made a honest mistake, but there was very little empathy for the honest mistake because of the way they handled it. I've experienced the same mistake with us and making sure that empathy, whether it's digital or via a, a member service representative happens, which is a part of being a member-centric or mission-centric culture, made all the difference.

Like sometimes I call it engineering for forgiveness. Um, but if you're going to embark on it, be legitimate, right? Like you can't do this because, you know, Forrester told you being mission driven is the new thing to do. Uh, you have to do it because you believe in it, right? You have to do it because your CEO is gonna support it. You have to do it because that young developer who needs to stay those four hours to facilitate the mission. Um, don't do it because, you know, you heard it in a conference.

Well, I know you guys live that mission. I see it. Every meeting starts out with the mission in first one or two slides. And, thank you for the example you guys set for the industry in being great innovators and putting members first and being mission driven. Thanks for being us today. Thank you Darrius.

Absolutely. Thanks for the time.

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