Learn Best Practices from American Express

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe how American Express used organizational change leadership principles to analyze their need for business transformation.
  • Summarize how American Express put organizational change management principles into practice.

American Express Transforms: The Challenges

American Express Transforms

Founded in 1850, American Express has successfully navigated its fair share of changes to become the premier provider of payment, travel, and expense solutions for consumers and businesses. It’s now the world’s largest card issuer by payment volume—with a payment platform that processes millions of transactions daily.

However, to succeed in a highly challenging market, American Express knows it needs to continue to identify and lead changes. So rather than sitting still, American Express is always looking at key trends, challenges, and opportunities that it can use to inform its change-leadership initiatives:


  • Consumers moving even more toward online and mobile payment
  • Greater competition from new organizations entering the market looking to disrupt the industry
  • Continued macroeconomic pressure


  • Increased competition for customers
  • Pressure on the fees that merchants pay
  • Intense competition for co-branding opportunities


Use analysis and systems to help:

  • Attract new card members and merchants
  • Broaden relationships with existing customers
  • Improve operating efficiencies
  • Identify and create additional value for existing customers and partners

Looking at the changes unfolding in the market, American Express executives didn’t want to wait for a series of incremental changes. They wanted massive, transformational change in the way they did business. Specifically, they wanted to get even closer to customers—including both end consumers and their expansive network of merchants—while also energizing their workforce.

Quote by Greg Keeley, EVP Global Corporate Payments - “The transformation for us is massive, because it’s about community...empowering the 62 thousand people that work for American Express”

To accomplish their plan, American Express needed to:

  • Focus their resources on achieving their vision and mission
  • Abandon aspects of their operations that were not helping them achieve their mission.

In other words, by truly accepting the signs of change, they realized their old operational model was not going to get them where they wanted to go. They needed to innovate how they did business, and develop resources and capabilities to help them compete into the future.

American Express Transforms: The Solution

American Express turned to information systems as a strategic enabler—helping them understand what’s happening in each of their markets, across products and services, and customer bases—such as allowing both global and local perspectives. Management also felt that they could better empower their 62,000 people to help customers.

Transformation didn’t happen overnight. It required managing in two time periods—driving performance in its present state, while making time to create the future.

American Express managed the organizational change process by creating quick wins and building upon them. American Express decided to start in sales. Silos of information across departments and systems prevented salespeople from understanding how customers were interacting with the brand, and the products and services offered.

By establishing Salesforce as their platform for information and applications, the American Express sales team can now sit down with customers to discuss clear, relevant information needed to make better, more informed decisions—moving the relationship from transaction-based to a partnership.

Consolidating and building upon the gains, American Express rolled the Salesforce platform into Service, Marketing, and the Product Teams to further improve internal collaboration and coordination across the organization, and to help customers solve problems.

“The word is connected. People feel like they are part of one team, working together on a single mission, for our customers.”

—Barbara Agoglia, VP & Head of Global E2E Marketing


By following the principles in this module, American Express successfully changed its operations to enable great efficiencies, and to empower its people with the information they needed to help customers and support growth. In other words, they recognized the need for present-day performance, while working toward the future. They accepted the signs of change, and worked to innovate their model using Salesforce and elements of the Kotter eight-step process.

By doing so, American Express is better positioned for long-term success.


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