MIGHTY 25: USAA CEO Wayne Peacock leads the way in military suicide prevention
Wayne Peacock has spent the last 30 years devoted to serving the military community at USAA. In 2023 under his leadership, the company founded Face the Fight against veteran suicide.
Though Peacock does not have a direct background in the military community, his father-in-law served 20 years in the Army.
“He was deployed a few times and they even lived overseas multiple times,” Peacock shared. “My wife's parents had four children and most of the time, Ginny’s mom was raising four kids by herself while her dad was in Vietnam or Korea or Germany. At a very human level the pressure that we put on spouses is significant.”
Those stories and his experiences working his way up through the ranks at CEO and spending time with military families left a big impact. Today, around 25% of their employees are veterans or military spouses. Peacock and his team have repeatedly asked them to bring their experience to the civilian employees to “raise the bar” for everyone.
“The days of an iconic CEO who has all the answers or is directing everyone are gone. It's really about creating the environment where people can be at their best every day and work together as a team to make something special happen,” he explained. “It's not so much about me. I happen to be the person at this time in history who is leading us forward. It's really this generation of folks like the previous generations who care deeply and are making a huge dent.”
The idea behind Face the Fight was to unite a coalition of corporations and foundations to stand in the gap against suicide and save lives. For National Suicide Prevention in September, Peacock encouraged employees to join Move for a Cause – Never Walk Alone Challenge. Over 1600 employees joined, raising a combined $200,000 for Stop Soldier Suicide.
Year after year, financial concerns remain a top concern for military families on the Blue Star Families Lifestyle Survey. As the country gears up for another potential shutdown, leaving all service members without pay, Peacock was frank about connecting it back to suicide.
“I'm going to be more aspirational and say it’s vitally important for us to do what we all should be doing to help those who put a uniform on and go downrange to defend our freedom,” he said. “We should be giving them a chance to build financial security and to live the kind of life that all of us as Americans would love to live. I think that's one of the things that always remains troubling because the sacrifice that our military members make is tremendous. They don't do it for financial reward. They do that out of a sense of duty, obligation and a sense of purpose which is connected to our democracy and ultimately, our freedom ”
Peacock explained that family readiness equates to force readiness and that’s why USAA is prepared to cover members' paychecks in the event of a government shutdown. USAA will cover one pay period, and members have 90 days to pay it back. It goes back to a philosophy of pairing vital financial products with corporate responsibility, he added.
As Face the Fight enters into the second phase of programming, the company is looking to go into communities for a boots-on-the-ground approach.
“To date, we've got a tremendous number of companies who've signed up to participate, and more and more folks are providing financial resources to it as well,” Peacock shared.
When he isn’t running the largest military financial services company in America, you can find Peacock spending time with his four children, reading or on the water sailing, as it is his favorite pastime. He credits his wife Ginny with keeping him grounded.
“I just celebrated 35 years of working at USAA. What I would tell you is I'm just as proud today as I was on day one to know that we're making a big difference. But it also gives you a chance to kind of reflect back on what matters,” Peacock explained. “What matters to me are the people that are here and making a huge difference in their lives while helping them be at their best so that together we can do something really special, which is taking care of military families.”
You can learn more about Face the Fight by clicking here.