The FINANCIAL -- American Express Company said on October 18 that its Board of Directors has appointed Stephen J. Squeri Chief Executive Officer and elected him Chairman of the Board, each effective February 1, 2018.
Mr. Squeri, 58, will succeed Kenneth I. Chenault, 66, who will retire after a distinguished 37-year career with the Company.
Mr. Squeri has been Vice Chairman since 2015 and prior to that was Group President of the Company’s Global Corporate Services Group.
Mr. Chenault has served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer since 2001.
“We are completing a two-year turnaround ahead of plan with strong revenue and earnings growth across all of our business segments,” said Mr. Chenault. “We’ve added new products and benefits, acquired record numbers of new customers, expanded our merchant network and lowered operating costs. We’ve dealt effectively with competitive challenges and redesigned our marketing, customer service and risk management capabilities for the digital age.”
“We’re starting a new chapter from a position of strength and this is the right time to make the leadership transition to someone who’s played a central role in all that we’ve accomplished,” Mr. Chenault continued. “Steve knows the industry. He knows the business and the brand. He knows the marketplace and how important the relationships we build with customers are to our success. He’s an excellent strategist and a strong leader.”
Robert D. Walter, Lead Director of American Express’ Board of Directors said, “Clear vision, sound judgment and the courage to make tough decisions are what define a leader. For 16 years we’ve had a great one in Ken Chenault. He’s met every challenge head on. He’s rallied the organization at times of crisis and he’s delivered for shareholders by making a great company even better.”
“Ken has also groomed an outstanding successor,” Mr. Walter continued. “Steve built commercial payments into one of our fastest growing businesses. He strengthened a world-class customer service network and transformed our technologies infrastructure. He’s led a reengineering program that lowered operating expenses and reallocated funding to the initiatives that are now driving growth across the business.”
“We’ve had a very thorough succession process underway for five-plus years that involved every member of the board and we are unanimous in our decision that Steve’s the best person to build on the progress under way at American Express,” added Mr. Walter.
Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said, “Ken’s been the gold standard for corporate leadership and the benchmark that I measure others against. He led the company through 9/11, the financial crisis and the challenges of the last couple of years. American Express always came out stronger. Ken never went for easy, short-term answers, never let day-to-day challenges distract him from what was right for the moderate to long term. No one does a better job when it really counts and he’s always done it with the highest degree of integrity.”
“American Express is a very special company, one in which I first invested 53 years ago,” Mr. Buffett added. “Ken built on its storied history – not by abandoning traditional strengths, but by building on them and adding new ones. He’s been a great CEO and Berkshire Hathaway shareholders owe him a huge thank you.”
“I’ve spoken with Steve and have been hearing about him from Ken,” continued Mr. Buffett. “From everything I’ve heard, he’s absolutely the right person for the job. He knows the business, has a great track record and appreciates what makes American Express special. Ken and the board have picked someone who is going to build on a great legacy of service and success.”
Berkshire Hathaway is American Express’ largest shareholder, according to American Express.
“It’s a privilege to lead one of the world’s most admired companies and I appreciate the expressions of confidence from the Board and our largest shareholder,” said Mr. Squeri. “Ken has been a terrific mentor. He leads by example and taught me, along with the rest of the organization, the importance of the personal connection millions of people around the world have with American Express.
“I feel very good about what we’ve accomplished and, while it’s a fast-moving competitive marketplace, I believe we’re in a strong position for the years ahead,” Mr. Squeri continued. “American Express is a unique brand and a franchise that’s unmatched by any one competitor. We have an impressive range of growth opportunities ahead of us. I’m going to be focused on innovating, building the brand around the strength of our customer service and partnering with merchants and businesses to take full advantage of the digital convergence that’s underway in the world of payments and commerce.”
Kenneth I. Chenault
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
American Express Company
Kenneth I. Chenault is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of American Express Company.
Mr. Chenault joined the company in September 1981 as Director of Strategic Planning. He was named President of the Consumer Card Group in 1989, and in 1993 he became President of Travel Related Services (TRS), which encompassed all of American Express’ card and travel businesses in the United States. In 1995, he assumed additional responsibility for the company’s worldwide card and travel businesses and also was named Vice Chairman of American Express. Mr. Chenault became President and Chief Operating Officer in February 1997. He assumed his current responsibilities as CEO on January 1, 2001, and as Chairman on April 23 of that year.
Under his leadership, American Express:
Built one of the world’s largest customer loyalty programs – Membership Rewards.
Evolved from a travel & entertainment oriented business to one that accommodates the everyday spending of nearly 100 million Card Members.
Expanded its global reach through a network of bank partners who issue cards on the American Express network.
Transformed its marketing, service and risk management capabilities for the digital age.
Formed ground-breaking partnerships with leading technology companies.
Introduced innovative products and earned global recognition as a leader in customer service.
Has been ranked as a leading employer in markets around the world.
Is continuously recognized as one of Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies and a leader in corporate social responsibility.
Before he came to American Express, Mr. Chenault was a management consultant with Bain & Co. from 1979 to 1981, and an attorney with Rogers & Wells from 1977 to 1979.
Mr. Chenault serves on the boards of American Express and several other corporate and nonprofit organizations, including IBM, The Procter & Gamble Company, the Harvard Corporation, the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, the National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University, the Smithsonian Institution’s Advisory Council for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center, and the Bloomberg Family Foundation. He also is a member of the Business Council and serves on the Executive Committee of the Business Roundtable as well as the Partnership for New York.
Mr. Chenault is recognized as one of the business world’s experts on brands and brand management and has been honored by multiple publications including Fortune Magazine, which named him as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders in its inaugural list.
A wide variety of civic, social service and community organizations have recognized Mr. Chenault for his public service leadership. He has received the Phoenix House Public Service Award, the Corporate Responsibility Award from the International Rescue Committee, the Wall Street Rising Leadership Award, and the Hadrian Award from the World Monuments Fund, among others. In addition, he is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Mr. Chenault holds a JD from Harvard Law School and a BA in history from Bowdoin College, and has received honorary degrees from several universities.
Stephen J. Squeri
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (Designate)
American Express Company
Stephen J. Squeri will become the company’s next Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, effective February 1, 2018, succeeding Ken I. Chenault. In his current role as Vice Chairman, Steve leads the company’s Global Commercial Services group, as well as its shared services groups, which include technology, customer servicing, credit administration and business services functions.
Steve joined American Express in 1985 as a manager in the Travellers Cheque Group. From 2000 to 2002, he served as President of the Establishment Services group in the U.S. and Canada, and he was President of the Corporate Card group from 2002 to 2005, during which time he globalized the business. Steve became the company’s Chief Information Officer in 2005 and also led the Corporate Development function, overseeing mergers and acquisitions. In 2009, Steve was named Group President and led the formation of the Global Services Group, consolidating and globalizing the company’s shared services functions. He was named Vice Chairman in 2015.
Over the course of his career at American Express, Steve:
Brought together separate divisions supporting small businesses, middle market firms and large companies to form the Commercial Services Group, which today represents 40 percent of overall Card Member spending.
Led companywide reengineering efforts that lowered operating expenses and reallocated investment resources to many of the initiatives that are now driving the company’s growth.
Reorganized the company’s Global Business Travel group into a joint venture, with access to additional investment resources to grow the business and support our commercial customers.
Oversaw the transformation of the Technology group into an agile resource that is driving product and service innovations across the business.
Combined stand-alone, regional operations into the Global Servicing Network that provides award-winning service to customers around the world.
Led the company’s Y2K preparedness and transition initiative.
Helped transform the Merchant Services group from a travel & entertainment network into one that supports the everyday spending needs of our Card Members, and pioneered early partnerships with third parties to sign new merchants.
Before joining American Express, Steve spent four years as a management consultant at Arthur Andersen and Company. He holds a Bachelor of Science and an MBA from Manhattan College.
In addition to serving on the American Express Global Business Travel Board of Directors, Steve currently sits on the boards of J.Crew Group, Inc. and Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Valerie Fund and Manhattan College, and he is a member of the Board of Governors for Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School.