American Express? That'll do nicely, especially in North America, where the brand remains arguably the card of choice for business users. But increasingly the company is out to capture the hearts, minds and purses of ordinary consumers in order to counter sharp declines in corporate expenditure. This has pushed American Express into fierce competition with credit card operators Visa and Mastercard, who have tried unsuccessfully to block any further inroads by their smaller rival. Those anti-competitive practices were finally blocked by the US Supreme Court in 2004. Unlike its main credit rivals, all of whose business is transacted via a global network of partner banks, American Express actually maintains a direct relationship with the vast majority of its 90m cardholders. It is the world's largest card-issuer by far. Since 1996 internationally - but 2004 in the US - it has also licensed partner banks (as well as brandowners including Delta Air Lines, Hilton and British Airways) to issue co-branded cards on its behalf. At the end of 2018, the group had a total of 114m cards in circulation, and 93m registered cardholders. Total billings charged to the group's card portfolio that year were $1,184bn. As an ancillary service, American Express is also one of the world's biggest travel agencies, offering general travel services to consumers and corporate customers. In 2014, the group sold a 50% shareholding in the business travel division to a consortium of investors including Certares private equity and Qatar Investment Authority for $900m. It continues to operate under the American Express Business Travel brand as a joint venture. The deal doesn't affect American Express's consumer travel operations, which continue to be wholly owned. In 2018, group revenues topped $40bn for the first time at $40.34bn, up 9% year on year. Net income more than doubled to $6.9bn. Until his retirement in 2018, Kenneth Chenault was perhaps the most prominent of the handful of African-Americans leading Fortune 500 companies. His successor is Stephen Squeri, former head of the corporate cards division.
Capsule checked 19th August 2019
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Who are the competitors of American Express? According to market-watcher The Nilson Report, American Express had 2.3% of the global credit and debit card market by purchase volumes in 2018, compared to 45% for Visa, 27% for China's UnionPay and 24% for Mastercard. However, its market share in the US alone is much higher at around 14%. See Financial & Insurance Sector for other companies
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Historical profile information for American Express
Recent stories from Adbrands Update:
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Jun 2018: Amazon and American Express are to to launch a co-branded credit card in the US specifically aimed at small business owners. The ecommerce giant already has a partnership with JPMorgan Chase for a general purpose consumer credit card, and with Synchrony Financial for a store card that can be used only for purchases on Amazon. Details of the American Express card have yet to be finalised.
Adbrands Social Media 25th May 2018: FRIDAY CLASSIC: American Express "One Hour Photo" by Ogilvy & Mather NY (2003). Martin Scorsese is almost certainly Hollywood's most recognisable movie director since Alfred Hitchcock. Not only do most people know what he looks like, but like Hitchcock, he has a widely recognised persona as well: intense, fast-talking, self-deprecating, perhaps slightly sinister... Like Hitch, he appears to enjoy poking fun at that image, not least in a series of ads for American Express in which, less usually, he has appeared in front of the camera rather than behind it. ...[Story continues here]..
Adbrands Weekly Update 19th Oct 2017: Kenneth Chenault, long-serving CEO of American Express, will retire in Feb next year after 16 years. He will surrender the role of chairman as well, rather than remaining in that role for a further period. His successor is Stephen Squeri, current vice chairman and former head of the corporate cards division. Chenault's retirement is particularly significant as it will reduce the number of African-American CEOs among Fortune 500 companies by a quarter, from four to just three. Two of the remaining three are also either at or heading towards retirement age. Several commentators identified the lack of succession planning at large corporations to groom the next generation of non-white leaders.
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