- American Express is a global payments company that provides customers with access to products, insights, and experiences that enrich lives and build business success.
- The company is a leader in providing credit and charge cards to consumers, small businesses, mid-sized companies, and large corporations worldwide.
- American Express cards, issued both by the company and by third-party banks and other institutions on the American Express network, can be used to charge purchases at millions of merchants worldwide.
- The company offers its various products and services globally to diverse customer groups through multiple channels, including mobile and online applications, affiliate marketing, customer referral programs, third-party service providers and business partners, direct mail, telephone, in-house sales teams, and direct response advertising.
- American Express was founded in 1850 and incorporated in 1965. It and its principal operating subsidiary, American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc., are bank holding companies subject to supervision and examination by the Federal Reserve.
- The company’s businesses comprise four reportable operating segments: U.S. Consumer Services, Commercial Services, International Card Services, and Global Merchant and Network Services. Corporate functions and other businesses are included in Corporate & Other.
- These businesses function together to form an end-to-end integrated payments platform, which the company believes is a differentiator that underpins its business model.
In addition, American Express’s business model has a few key components:
- American Express maintains direct relationships with both card members and merchants, handling all key aspects of those relationships. This creates a “closed loop” that distinguishes their integrated payments platform from other bankcard networks.
- The company’s integrated payments platform allows them to analyze information on card member spending and build algorithms and other analytical tools to underwrite risk, reduce fraud, and provide targeted marketing and other information services.
- American Express offers a broad set of card products, rewards, and services to a diverse consumer and commercial customer base, both in the U.S. and internationally. They acquire and retain high-spending, engaged, and creditworthy card members through innovative products, incentives, digital and mobile services, exceptional customer care, and partner relationships.
- The company has focused on broadening the appeal of its products to attract new customers, particularly Millennial and Gen Z customers, as well as expanding its position with small and mid-sized enterprise customers. They have also introduced new adjacent products that complement their existing products.
- American Express builds and manages relationships with millions of merchants around the world that choose to accept American Express cards. They also build and maintain relationships with merchant acquirers, aggregators, and processors to manage aspects of their merchant services business.
- The company operates a payments network through which they establish and maintain relationships with third-party banks and other institutions in approximately 103 countries and territories, licensing the American Express brand and extending the reach of their global network.
American Express was founded on March 18, 1850, through a merger of three transportation companies owned by Henry Wells, William G. Fargo, and John Warren Butterfield.
Early Success and Expansion
By 1862, American Express operated a vast network of offices and express routes across the United States. It became a prominent player in the express delivery of valuables and goods.
Merger and Renaming
In 1868, American Express merged with the Merchants Union Express Company, forming the American Merchants Union Express Company. It was later renamed the American Express Company in 1873.
Innovations and Global Expansion
Under the leadership of James Congdell Fargo, American Express introduced innovations such as money orders (1882) and traveler’s cheques (1891). The company expanded its presence internationally, establishing offices in France, England, Germany, and other countries.
Shift to Banking and Travel Services
When the U.S. government nationalized the express industry in 1918, American Express shifted its focus primarily to banking and travel-related services.
Starting in the 1960s, American Express diversified its interests through acquisitions of various investment, insurance, and publishing companies. The company aimed to expand beyond its traditional financial services offerings.
Global Growth and Partnerships
American Express established card-issuance partnerships in South America and Europe in 1972, marking its global expansion. In 1991, the Membership Miles rewards program was introduced, contributing to the company’s growth. Cobranding partnerships, such as the one with Hilton, further enhanced its business model.
Technological Advancements and Social Initiatives
American Express launched a mobile app in 2010 and initiated the Small Business Saturday campaign to support small businesses. The company introduced machine learning-based fraud protection and refreshed its Corporate Card program in subsequent years. In 2020, American Express announced a $1 billion action plan to promote equity and inclusion across its operations.
- Physical Branches: American Express has physical branch locations where customers can visit for in-person interactions, inquiries, and account services. These branches are strategically located in key cities and regions.
- Online Platforms: The company offers online platforms and mobile applications that enable customers to access their accounts, make payments, check balances, and perform various transactions digitally. This digital presence enhances convenience for customers.
- Affiliate Marketing: American Express leverages affiliate marketing programs, partnering with other businesses and financial institutions to promote its card products and services. These partnerships often offer co-branded credit cards or loyalty programs.
- Customer Referral Programs: American Express runs customer referral programs where existing card members can refer friends and family, earning rewards or benefits for successful referrals. This word-of-mouth marketing helps acquire new customers.
- Third-Party Service Providers and Business Partners: The company collaborates with various third-party service providers, merchants, and business partners to expand its reach. This includes payment processors, technology partners, and travel-related businesses.
- Direct Mail: American Express utilizes direct mail campaigns to target potential customers. Direct mailers often include personalized offers and incentives to encourage card applications.
- Telephone: Telephone-based customer service and sales teams assist customers with inquiries, applications, and account management over the phone.
- In-House Sales Teams: American Express maintains in-house sales teams that engage with potential customers, businesses, and corporate clients to promote and sell card products and services.
- Direct Response Advertising: The company invests in direct response advertising campaigns across various media channels to attract new customers and reinforce its brand presence.
American Express operates through a well-defined organizational structure:
- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO): The CEO is responsible for overall leadership, strategic direction, and decision-making at the highest level.
- Board of Directors: The board provides oversight, governance, and guidance to the executive leadership team.
- Executive Leadership Team: This team includes top executives responsible for various business units and functions, such as U.S. Consumer Services, Commercial Services, International Card Services, Global Merchant and Network Services, and Corporate & Other.
- Business Units: Each of the four reportable operating segments (U.S. Consumer Services, Commercial Services, International Card Services, and Global Merchant and Network Services) is led by a president or executive vice president. These segments focus on specific customer groups and services.
- Corporate Functions: Corporate & Other encompasses various corporate functions, including finance, legal, human resources, and technology support.
- Global Network Expansion Teams: Teams focused on expanding the company’s global network, establishing relationships with third-party banks and institutions in different countries, and extending the reach of its services.
- Branding: The company maintains a strong and recognizable brand image associated with trust, reliability, and premium financial services.
- Customer Engagement: American Express engages customers through personalized marketing campaigns, exclusive offers, and loyalty programs that cater to their interests and preferences.
- Content Marketing: The company produces content related to personal finance, lifestyle, travel, and business to engage and educate its target audience. This content is often shared through various digital channels.
- Digital Presence: American Express leverages its digital platforms, including its website and mobile app, to provide easy access to account management, rewards redemption, and customer support.
- Co-Branding Partnerships: The company partners with other brands, such as airlines and hotel chains, to offer co-branded credit cards with specific benefits and rewards tailored to customer interests.
- Customer Referral Programs: Encouraging existing customers to refer friends and family through referral programs is a part of its marketing strategy, capitalizing on word-of-mouth marketing.
- Data-Driven Insights: American Express utilizes data analytics and customer spending insights to tailor marketing efforts, provide targeted offers, and identify emerging trends.
- Sponsorships and Events: The company sponsors and participates in various events, including sports, entertainment, and cultural activities, to increase brand visibility and engage with customers.
- Social Responsibility: American Express incorporates social responsibility and community engagement into its marketing strategy, supporting initiatives related to equity and inclusion.
- Global Payments Provider: American Express is a worldwide payments company that offers customers access to products, insights, and experiences to enhance their lives and business success.
- Card Services: It is a leader in providing credit and charge cards to a broad range of customers, including consumers, small businesses, mid-sized companies, and large corporations globally.
- Merchant Network: American Express cards, issued by the company and third-party banks, are accepted by millions of merchants globally for purchases.
- Diverse Channels: The company delivers its products and services through various channels, including mobile apps, online platforms, affiliate marketing, direct mail, customer referral programs, and partnerships.
- Segmented Business Structure: American Express operates through four main segments: U.S. Consumer Services, Commercial Services, International Card Services, and Global Merchant and Network Services. Corporate functions and other businesses are included in Corporate & Other.
- Integrated Payments Platform: The company’s model involves direct relationships with card members and merchants, creating a closed-loop system. This enables them to analyze spending patterns, mitigate risk, reduce fraud, and provide targeted services.
- Customer Acquisition and Retention: American Express focuses on acquiring and retaining high-spending, creditworthy card members through innovative products, digital services, customer care, and partnerships.
- Merchant Relationships: The company manages relationships with millions of merchants worldwide who choose to accept American Express cards, and also works with merchant acquirers and processors.
- Global Network: American Express operates a payments network that extends through partnerships with third-party banks and institutions in numerous countries, expanding its global reach.