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No. 1 Place To Work in IT: USAA

It's a benefits bonanza here, but IT workers also enjoy expansive career options and limitless prospects for innovation.

June 21, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - In February, Michael Lonigro, an IT technical manager at USAA, received a record-breaking performance bonus equal to 18.8% of his annual salary. So did every other USAA employee, thanks to the San Antonio-based financial services company's stellar 2009 performance. The big payout came less than 90 days after USAA staffers received their regular holiday bonuses, which have been awarded to every worker every year since 1930 and equalled two weeks' base pay.

All 2,087 IT workers -- and every other full-time employee -- also receive a generous benefits package that includes health insurance subsidized at the rate of 87.5% and an additional $3,000 per year for out-of-pocket medical expenses. On top of that, USAA offers a variety of free health screenings, free access to three on-campus gyms, 24 days of vacation after a year on the job, and a tuition reimbursement benefit of $10,000 annually. Yes, that's $10,000 with a ten and three zeroes. Little wonder USAA hit the No. 1 spot on Computerworld's Best Places to Work in IT list, after making the list for 11 consecutive years.

"The benefits are just wonderful. The health care plan is outstanding. We are very, very well taken care of," says Lonigro.

All told, USAA spends more than $400 million annually on employee benefits programs. Other perks include subsidized child care, a $5-an-hour errand service, and dollar-for-dollar matches of employees' 401(k) contributions up to 8%, plus an additional retirement contribution of up to 9% of an employee's pay.

Yet pay and benefits typically don't get first mention when employees are asked what makes the company a great place to work. Lonigro, for example, answered that question by saying, "When you read about USAA, it's always positive. It gives you the sense you're doing some good. The commitment to our members is paramount, regardless of who you talk to in the organization. It makes me feel proud to work for a company that's so dedicated to its members."

History of Service

With 7.4 million customers, USAA now offers a wide range of financial services and products to U.S. military members, veterans and their families. Companywide, USAA's 21,300 employees -- about 20% of whom are veterans or spouses of active military personnel -- seem to have a passion for providing exemplary service to this particular customer segment, often referring to their work not as a job but as a mission.

Within IT, this zeal for service translates into a laser focus on quality and innovation. For example, each month, the CIO awards a highly coveted Quality Cup award in four categories: large and small development projects, enhancements and operations. Winning the cup entails earning points under a sophisticated scoring system. CIO Greg Schwartz delivers the cup personally to the winning teams, which are recognized for completing projects with the fewest defects.

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