American Express: Renewing Advantage
When the financial crisis hit world markets in 2008, American Express, currently the world’s biggest card issuer, with $950 billion in billed business, faced very difficult circumstances.1 Defaults on credit card payments rose sharply, consumer spending plummeted, and the funding markets dried up. In previous recessions, Amex’s wealthy clientele had kept spending—but not this time.2
The circumstances called for a drastic response, and Ken Chenault, Amex’s CEO, took swift action. He launched an aggressive cost-cutting and restructuring program to focus the organization and to impart a sense of urgency. Chenault explained to us: “First we had to deal with the cost issue. The environment ...