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USAA Breaks Out of Banking Pack

By Published on .

While it may be another banner year for bank profits, it hasn't exactly been a good year for bank brands. From Occupy Wall Street marching on Chase to regular consumers revolting against Bank of America for a proposed fee on debit cards, bank brands were among this year's biggest bad guys.

The exception is USAA, known primarily as a banking and insurance provider for U.S. military members and their families. The company's banking services are actually available to nonmilitary people as well. And as outraged consumers cast about for new banks, USAA has been suggested frequently -- including by this author, a happy customer for years.

What's not to like? USAA offers free checking and, because it doesn't operate nationally, reimburses ATM fees charged by others. Its customer service, based in Texas, is exceptional and includes a responsive Twitter presence.

The stats: From 2010 to 2011, USAA Federal Savings Bank membership has risen more than 10%. According to FDIC data, deposit growth was 17% as of June 30, compared with less than 7% for all FDIC-insured institutions. In 2010, USAA had an after-tax profit of $486 million.

And that 's without taking federal bailout money. The bank is running ads, from Campbell-Ewald, touting its roots as a military-service provider and its dedication to military families, who make up the majority of the bank's customer base. USAA could undoubtedly see even greater growth by recruiting general consumers, but the company said it will maintain its focus on service families.

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