USAA has opened a “design studio” that will experiment with ways to improve the customer experience, whether through its digital channels or traditional interactions with member service representatives.

The office in Austin, Texas, houses about 120 employees, the company said. Meriah Garrett, who joined USAA in December as chief design officer, will head up the studio.

The workspace is an example of the trend in recent years of insurers establishing separate units – often termed "labs" or "sandboxes" – where innovative ideas can be tested and tried.

[For more on the trend, see Innovation labs, hackathons proliferate across insurance]

“We are a financial services organization, but for 94 years our business has really been member service,” Garrett said in a press release Thursday. “We want to make planning your finances, getting a mortgage, or providing the best insurance coverage as easy and approachable as shopping online or streaming a video.”

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