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Kenneth I. Chenault, the chairman and chief executive of American Express, announced on Wednesday that he will retire next year. Stephen J. Squeri, the company’s vice chairman since 2015, will succeed Chenault as Amex CEO beginning February 1, 2018.
Chenault began his 37-year career at American Express as a director of strategic planning before eventually becoming the company’s CEO in 2001. The 66-year-old is known for expanding Amex’s business beyond its traditional core of wealthy and corporate customers and moving it into a broader market. During his tenure, Chenault expanded the Amex brand to many of the co-branded airline and hotel credit cards that consumers know today — Hilton, Delta and more. In all, the expansion helped Amex to become the credit card issuer with the highest consumer spending in the US.
“I’ve treasured every day of my 37-year career here,” Chenault said on a conference call with analysts. “It’s been a journey that spanned profound changes in the world of business.”
Revenues at American Express grew from around $21 billion in 2001 to about $34 billion in 2014. But, the company has struggled in recent years as other issuers have entered the market with competitive premium consumer products. Case in point: the Chase Sapphire Reserve. When the card was released in August 2016, it shocked consumers with its 100,000-point sign-up bonus, premier earning structure and other perks. To respond, the issuer was forced to refresh its premium Platinum Card from American Express, increasing its earning structure and adding more benefits for cardholders.
Between 2015 and 2016, revenues and share prices dropped for Amex, however, the share prices have rebounded this past year. Chenault’s successor, Stephen J. Squeri, has been with the company for 32 years, and has been in charge of running its corporate card division.
Squeri said the company is “moving into a period of growth.” According to The New York Times, Squeri said his first priorities will be in the realms of digital innovation, establishing Amex’s position at the top of the premium consumer market and expanding its share of commercial payments on the global scale.
Featured image by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images.
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