USAA commits to digital innovation with new CIO

The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) has signalled its commitment to digital innovation with the appointment of a new CIO.

 

Amala Duggirala has joined the company, which provides insurance for military veterans, as executive vice president and enterprise chief information officer (ECIO), and will be a member of USAA’s executive council, reporting to the CEO. She will lead a team of 6,000 IT professionals spanning technology, data, security and third-party management.

 

The USAA has been swift to stress Duggirala’s track record in DX: “Amala is one of the leading strategists in technology, and we will leverage her industry expertise and passion for developing people to lead USAA’s technology transformation,” said President and CEO Wayne Peacock. “Her enthusiasm and innovative spirit are the perfect match for USAA as we continue to build innovative products and services for our members and teammates into our second century.”

 

Duggirala has spent the last five years at Regions Bank where she served as chief operations and technology officer. Prior to that, she led technology and product transformations in the fin-tech and telecom industries at companies including Kabbage, ACI Worldwide and BT. She was added last year to Forbes’ inaugural ‘CIO Next 2021’ list which highlights the top technology executives considered by Forbes to be redefining the role of CIO and driving game-changing innovation.

 

“I look forward to maintaining USAA’s reputation as a technology and innovation leader in the financial services industry,” said Duggirala. “It’s my honor to serve the military community as well as our 37,000 employees worldwide.”

 

Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is a leading provider of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to more than 13 million members of the US military. Headquartered in San Antonio in Texas, USAA has offices in seven US cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 37,000 people worldwide.

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Book of the Month*

The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck

By Dr Christian Busch
Serendipity is an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. To other people it looks like “good luck”, but it is more the ability to recognise and seize an opportunity, rather than have good fortune thrust upon one. Finding a wallet stuffed with money on the conference room floor is good luck, whereas holding it up and asking if anyone has lost their wallet might be the beginning of a valuable friendship – that would be serendipity.

Chance encounters, or strokes of fortune, feature in countless stories of business success. This book looks beneath the surface, reveals and teaches the mindset that can transform pure chance into opportunity. The author is director of the Global Economy Program at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, and a lecturer at the London School of Economics.

Serendipity is an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. To other people it looks like “good luck”, but it is more the ability to recognise and seize an opportunity, rather than have good fortune thrust upon one. Finding a wallet stuffed with money on the conference room floor is good luck, whereas holding it up and asking if anyone has lost their wallet might be the beginning of a valuable friendship – that would be serendipity.

The author says “This is a book about the interactions of coincidence, human ambition and imagination”. In the above example: finding the wallet is the coincidence; ambition is the desire to make something of the discovery; add imagination and you open up a whole menu of possibilities: from spending spree to earning a reputation for honesty – or even making a wealthy friend.

Business is typically forged on human ambition and imagination, but early success often feeds an appetite for control – and “control freaks” can be blind to the opportunities thrown up by the unexpected. They only see chance events as distractions. If plans go awry, they may blame the failure on “bad luck” rather than admit their own inflexible attitude.

The author himself admits to being “a German who is used to planning” and prone to feel anxious when something unexpected happens. That makes him an ideal teacher, because he has worked hard to discover and analyse the mindset that enables one to “connect the dots” and cultivate serendipity. He presents a goldmine of examples from science, business and life where an apparent mishap or failure lead to a breakthrough.

Indeed, studies suggest that around 50% of major scientific breakthroughs emerge as the result of accidents or coincidences. A well-known example is Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, launching the whole field of antibiotics. Other examples include X-rays, nylon, microwave ovens, rubber, Velcro, Viagra and Post-it Notes – where would we be without these!

The book goes beyond the ability to recognise and respond to opportunities in chaos, but the subtitle – The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck – is actually a bit misleading. True, he does show ways to develop better fortune, but it would be better to call it “inviting” or “encouraging” good luck. For example, he suggests better ways to start a conversation with a stranger – ways that will make it more likely to lead to chance connections or shared interests.

The publishers may have chosen the word “creating” to make the book appeal to the human desire to control – for control freaks are exactly the readership that would benefit the most from this book’s wisdom and practical advice.

For the rest of us, it offers a great way to rediscover the sense of play that is so important in life – and too often lost in business.

“Following the success of The Serendipity Mindset hardback, a paperback edition has also now been launched under the title “Connect the Dots”.

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