American Express (NYSE: AXP) CEO Kenneth I. Chenault has decided to step down February next year after being one of the longest serving executives in finance and one of corporate America’s few black top leaders. The company has expanded beyond their core market of corporate customers and cardholders by becoming the credit card issuer with the highest customer spending in the U.S. from co-branding deals with retailers as well as airlines.
Chenault joined the company as a director of strategic planning and became the top executive in 2001. His 37 years within the firm will be succeeded by Stephen J. Squeri who has been vice chairman since 2015. From the end of 2001, American Express’ revenues rose from about $21 billion to about $34 billion in 2014. Following that year, competition hit the company’s revenue by dropping in 2015 and the year after.
Chenault has then tried to regain the company’s footing by increasing focus on small business and international customers as well as targeting affluent travelers. Following these moves, American Express’ stock price grew 50% over the past year and stock returns have outperformed those of the financial sector. The CEO has also gained compensation valued at more than $60 million over the past 3 years while also being an active philanthropist by raising money for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
American Express’ third quarter profit reported $1.4 billion on sales of $8.4 billion which both topped analyst expectations.