USAA VP Yvette Segura: “Why companies often grow and excel at the speed of trust”

Companies often grow and excel at the speed of trust. If you trust your teams, it frees them up to take risks and if you have provided sound guardrails, those risks often yield exceptional results. As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Yvette Segura. Yvette is […]

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Companies often grow and excel at the speed of trust. If you trust your teams, it frees them up to take risks and if you have provided sound guardrails, those risks often yield exceptional results.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Yvette Segura. Yvette is the Regional Vice President of USAA’s regional offices in Tampa, Florida. Yvette provides leadership to the 3,700 USAA employees across Tampa and is the senior USAA officer in Florida. Her responsibilities include serving as the primary USAA representative to regional civic, industry and military organizations. She is also the senior on-site integrator/coordinator for Community Affairs, Corporate Communications, Facilities, Information Technology, Business Continuation and People Services. Yvette has worked in the insurance industry since 1984 and has been with USAA since February 1989. During her tenure at USAA, she has held a variety of leadership positions in the Property and Casualty Company. Throughout her career with USAA, she has lived in several cities across the USA to include San Antonio, TX, Atlanta, GA, Colorado Springs, CO and Tampa, FL. In 2007, she was named Vice President of Claims Service Operations in USAA’s home office in San Antonio, TX. In this position, she was responsible for as many as 2,800 claims employees across the country as well as USAA’s international offices in Frankfurt and London. Yvette returned to Tampa in her current position of Regional Vice President in March 2015. In this role, she serves as the on-site Senior Officer responsible for shaping workplace culture, with particular focus on alignment with USAA’s Mission, Core Values and Sales and Service philosophy. Yvette holds both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Business Administration. In addition, she attained the CPCU and CCLA designations. She is an active member in the community and enjoys volunteering her time. Yvette is married to Randal Collette and, together, they enjoy traveling.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

From a very young age I always knew that I wanted to be a leader. I was the oldest of 3 and both of my parents worked, so I was often left in charge on my siblings and perhaps that is when my leadership journey began. As I got older, that desire did not change but I realized that I had to learn something, gain some technical skills, in order to effectively lead. I began my career in the insurance industry as a claims adjuster and that led to my path in leadership.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Since I started my role as Regional Vice President in Tampa, I’ve had the distinct privilege of being inducted as an Honorary Commander at MacDill Air Force Base. In this role have I have witnessed some of the great work being done by our Airmen to include taking part in an air refueling mission. I am so proud to serve in this capacity and I have great respect not only for our Airmen but all our service men and women. Their hard work, dedication and sacrifices (as well as those of their families) should be recognized and honored every day.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t really have any “funny” mistakes, but I have certainly made my share of mistakes throughout my career — and tried to learn from all of them. An example from early days as an inexperienced adjuster: I adjusted and settled a claim with a woman on a “slip and fall” for $2k — which seemed like a fair settlement. A few weeks later, I as returning from lunch and my boss said, “you owe me $2k”. Turns out I was scammed by a professional claimant. I had not followed through to get all the information and in this case made a $2k mistake. I thought I was going to get fired, but my boss told me, “if $2k is the cost to teach the importance of follow through, checking facts and being thorough, it’s money well spent…and don’t do it again!” 😊

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our Mission and who we serve. I am very proud to work for a company that focuses on taking care of service members and their families and bases that focus from our core values of honesty, integrity, loyalty and service. For nearly 100 years, USAA has been protecting the financial security of our members and providing world class customer service and I am honored to work with great teammates to continue that legacy.

Story — one of our members once told his teenage daughter, if you are ever unsure what to do in life and cannot get in touch with me or your mother, call USAA. Not, if you are ever unsure what to do with your insurance or banking, etc. — just unsure at all. Fast forward in her life and she was in New York when the towers went down and for hours, she was unable to get in touch with her parents to let them know she was alright. Then, she remembered what her father had told her and took a chance at calling USAA’s 800# and she got through. One of our employees transferred her to her parents.

When I think about that story, I can’t help but think how many great interactions our member must have had with USAA to give that guidance to his daughter.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Continuous culture journey. Our corporate culture has always been very strong. But we must be able to change with the times and recognize that culture shifts are important and can be very healthy. The strongest cultures are grounded by way of your mission and your core values, but we must be able to adapt with changing times and recognize that culture is a dynamic, living thing and it’s influenced by generational shifts and technology advances. Stay close to the pulse of your organization and don’t be afraid to ask your employees to define your corporate culture — you may be amazed by what you hear.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

My general guidance for any leader is — Be humble, stay relevant, trust your teams, come from curious and assume positive intent.

I have found throughout my career that employees want to follow humble leaders.

We are living in a very fast paced world with technology that changes very quickly — we must keep up with those changes.

Companies often grow and excel at the speed of trust. If you trust your teams, it frees them up to take risks and if you have provided sound guardrails, those risks often yield exceptional results.

Finally, don’t assume you always have the answers, even in areas where you considered an expert. Come from curious and assume positive intent — both help to create and build trust with your teams.

For women, my additional advice is to stay true to yourself, make sure you have a voice at the table and demonstrate your value.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Develop your leaders and then let them lead. Trust in their abilities and they will gain strength and confidence from this and build better teams. We’ve all heard trust but verify and that is still true here, but I prefer trust and verify.

Be inclusive and create an environment where ideas are encouraged and promoted. Challenge your leaders and give them assignments/responsibilities that continue to stretch their learning and development. Ultimately, build a strong bench that will allow your company to achieve, grow and excel.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have been very fortunate throughout my career to have worked with great leaders and people who have influenced me and the course of my career. But the person who I am most grateful towards is my Father. My Father is my role model for what it means to work hard, respect people and continually learn. We did not have a lot when I was growing up, but I always had the love and support of my father. And, that love, and support was sometimes tough love. My Father served in the Air Force and the positive influence the Air Force had on him certainly bled over to wanting myself and my siblings to be respectful and work hard. I am grateful for the lessons he taught me, and I know that I am a better person and better leader because of his influence, his discipline and his love. Today, I am blessed to still have him in my life — as a sounding board or for moral support.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Throughout my career I have tried to cast a shadow of inclusion, mentoring and giving back. Internally, I have mentored hundreds of people over the course of my career and I hope that I’ve helped people see the strengths that they bring to the organization and the courage to address their opportunities. In the process, I hope that I have encouraged them to see the value in mentorship and to pay that forward when asked to do the same. I also believe that being open to diversity has encouraged people to speak up and request a mentoring relationship and by saying yes, I am fostering more than just diversity — inclusion as well. Externally, I have always had a strong desire to give back in the communities in which I have lived and worked. I have a passion to help those that need a hand up and I have always felt that I received as much from my giving as I gave, if not more.

I am not sure how much goodness this has brought to the world, but if my actions have inspired others to give back and to mentor, perhaps that multiplier has brought goodness to many more than I ever thought possible.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Platinum rule — “Treat others the way they want to be treated” — I had a manager that worked for me years ago who was very thorough in his communication and explanation of his work and he took great pride in that. We met late one afternoon when I had a number of tasks I still needed to accomplish that day and I asked him to “get to the point”. For me, my communication style is more succinct and to the point, so I did not think much about this, but it had an impact on him. So much so, that our relationship was a bit strained from that day forwarded. I learned the true value of the platinum rule through that experience.

Value of Networking — your results matter significantly and so does putting a name/face together.

Stay relevant — 5 generations in the workforce and technology is moving faster and faster — keep pace.

Embrace change — appreciate that people accept/embrace change differently and at different speeds. Help communicate the “why” when dealing with change and this will help bridge that gap.

Take risks — Don’t be afraid to fail — there are many great lessons in failure.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Sustainability. We are not paying enough attention to what we will be leaving our children and grandchildren. We should get more involved in helping people see the negative impact that we are having on our planet and what can be done to help turn this tide. Things like plastics in our oceans are severely impacting sea life and plastic items will soon outnumber fish in our oceans. We can do better! We owe it to our kids and future generations to do better.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

A former colleague of mine once said that, “you can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to be there”. This quote has always stuck with me and is a great reminder that you need to be seen, you need to show up and you need to be consistent in doing both.

It is very easy to get caught up in the daily grind of meetings and e-mails, but in order to effectively lead and influence, you must take the time to be seen, to ask questions, to get to know people and let them get to know you. I have found this is particularly helpful during difficult times, or times of change — when you roll up your sleeves with your team, vs. telling them to roll up theirs.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Amy Cuddy — author of “Presence”. I wish I had this book earlier in my career. I would have networked earlier and more importantly, I would have put myself out there more. I am confident that I fell short on some things because I was not willing to do so. I also let some of the “negative self-talk” drive me.

A private breakfast or lunch with Amy would be a great opportunity to learn more from her, gain more insight and to put that in to practice. We should never stop growing and trying to improve.

— –

About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click here to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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