Automating Personalization: Q&A with Zach Gipson, Chief Innovation Officer of USAA

November 4, 2015

Automating Personalization

The following is from our conversation at the In|Vest Wealth Management 2015 Conference with Zach Gipson, Chief Innovation Officer at USAA. He shares his insights on the future of wealth management and his work with Narrative Science. 

What are you most excited for in Wealth Management?

When I think of wealth, there are three really exciting things that are happening. One, I heard the term earlier, the “democratization of advice.” So it’s not advice just for customers who have a lot of money. It’s really scaling that model that is really designed to serve folks with a lot of money for someone who has very little money and just wants to get started. That to me is the most exciting thing that’s going on in wealth today.

On the other side, I love to see the rise of digital. When you look at the traditional advisory model you can’t possibly spend as much time as you need to with every one of your clients. And so with digital coming in, yes it’ll disrupt and drive change, but I like to think of it as positive change because it’s another way that we can interact with customers to better serve them: serve them on a real-time basis so it’s not just a quarterly contact with a statement talking about progress towards a goal. 

It’s really letting customers engage with you in a manner in which they want to. And that could be 11 o’clock at night. It could be on the weekends. But it’s providing those digital capabilities that compliment and enhance the advisory model.

How do you see new technology innovations impacting the future of wealth management?

I see new technology and new solutions really offering a new and fresh approach to wealth management. So we talk about disruption and will it disrupt how we did things? But the core of wealth around serving clients and customers - helping them grow their wealth over time and pass that wealth on to generations - that’s still going to happen.

It just means something different today than it meant 20 years ago. It’ll mean something different in five and ten years.

So I’m really excited about new and emerging technology because if it helps us better serve customers, it helps broaden availability of investment advice and wealth planning to more consumers and more consumers needed than ever before, that’s a wonderful thing.

Why did USAA choose to work with Narrative Science?

We chose to work with Narrative Science because we were looking for really great and innovative partners to help us better serve our members. So we know we can’t build everything we need, we know we can’t offer every service we need in order to help military families be more secure. And so we’re out looking for great companies of all sizes.

But really, companies that are looking to partner with us understand our mission and are willing to work with us on new and exciting ways to serve members.

The topic of today’s talk is ‘Automating Personalization.’ What does that mean for USAA?

When I think of personalization I go back to a relationship. When I go home every night I don’t have to reintroduce myself to my wife, tell her who I am. I don’t have to create a brand new set of shared experiences.

And what has made USAA the firm we are today, which 92% of our members want to stay with us for life, is really around that trusted relationship we built with them. That’s grounded in trust, as I said. But it’s also knowing them better than anyone else.

What are the future opportunities you see in working with Narrative Science and Quill?

So when I look at future opportunities in working with Narrative Science and Quill, the first cases we’re looking at are investments, investment management and personalization - that space. But we’re in other lines of business - we have a bank, we have insurance companies.

When I look at the ability to be personalized and deliver relevant, real time contextual content to our members I want to take that and look at how we would do that in the context of say, a banking transaction, in the context of helping a member buying their first home or their first car or making sure they have the right level of protection.

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