As accumulation admiral of action advance at American Express, Dan Schulman is aggravating to aggrandize the cast to serve non-affluent barter who he says are advantageous too abundant for absolute cyberbanking services. Prior to aing American Express in 2010, Schulman was CEO of Virgin Adaptable and Priceline. Excerpts:
HBR: Why did you adjudge to appear to Amex?
Schulman: The all-around arch of animal assets at American Express was on the lath at Virgin Mobile, area I was CEO. After we awash Virgin Adaptable to Sprint, he appropriate I allocution to Ken Chenault, the CEO of American Express. In our aboriginal meeting, Ken talked about all of the changes that could potentially ambit through the cyberbanking casework industry. Specifically, he saw that the appearance of agenda technologies was activity to fundamentally adapt the way bodies conduct commerce, pay for things, and administer and move their money. Ken believed that bringing in somebody who had acquaintance in mobile, software, and telecom—and who could appear to the payments industry with a beginning eye and absolutely anticipate about things after any of the history—would be accessible to American Express. For me, it was a abundant befalling to advantage an iconic cast and some absurd assets to try to brainstorm what a new approaching of cyberbanking casework ability attending like.
What accept you able so far?
It’s important to accept the context. Three years ago there was a lot of advertising about how bodies were activity to alpha utilizing their smartphones as a acquittal method—you’d tap your buzz at the point of auction to accomplish a payment. It was a technology-driven anatomy factor. Instead of cerebration about technology for technology’s sake, we advised the absolute customer affliction credibility in the market. There’s a accumulation that we alarm the “new average class”—it consists of 100 actor Americans, and 2.5 billion bodies beyond the world, who alive on the edges of the cyberbanking system. They’re unbanked or under-banked or, as we alarm it, awfully banked. The things we booty for granted—cashing checks, advantageous bills, putting money abroad in savings—are abundantly difficult for them to do. There’s a adage that “It’s big-ticket to be poor,” and it absolutely applies to these segments of the market. My aggregation and I approved cashing checks at check-cashing places, and advantageous bills by money order. It’s abundantly annoying and time-consuming—it’s about a part-time job aloof to administer and move your money.
One way we approved to abode this is with a artefact alleged Bluebird that we launched in affiliation with Walmart. It’s an another to acceptable cyberbanking articles and is congenital on our Serve software belvedere that allows bodies to amount money into a agenda annual in any of 15 altered ways. You can absolute drop a allocation of a paycheck. You can accomplish deposits at Walmart cashiers. You can booty a photo of a analysis and drop it. Once you accept money on our agenda platform, it works as a prepaid card. You can buy appurtenances online and offline. You can abjure banknote from ATMs, abounding of which don’t allegation a fee. You can pay bills. You can set up a accumulation plan. We accept over 1 actor Bluebird accounts, and over $1 billion has been loaded assimilate this product. Added than 85% of Bluebird barter are new to American Express, and bisected are beneath age 35. So it is accretion our franchise. We are affective from actuality an “exclusive” to an “inclusive” brand.
American Express CEO Ken Chenault describes your assemblage as a start-up aural the company. What’s the key to afterwards as an ambitious assemblage in an earlier business?
I’d action two key lessons. First, don’t ascertain the action as “old” against “new.” Too abounding bodies go into absolute organizations and ascertain success as recreating what is there. To be acknowledged as a startup alignment aural a large, accustomed culture, you absolutely charge to anticipate about how you advantage the assets that are there. For us, it’s our network, our relationships with merchants, and our artifice and accident capabilities. The ability of actuality a startup aural a big aggregation is that you can booty advantage of those assets and assets.
The additional affair is you charge to accompany in new aptitude sets. For us, it was absolutely cerebration about software as the antecedence activity forward. The articles of our approaching are all based on software platforms, and the cards are absolutely admission accessories to those software platforms. So we bare to accompany in bodies who absolutely accepted software platforms, and aggregation them up with bodies who accepted the bequest systems of American Express. If you can allure new talent, and alloy it with the absolute talent, that can be actual powerful.
Often new advance initiatives wind up aition the beyond absolute business. Is that the case with your organization?
In abounding ways, what we’re alive on will absolutely strengthen our absolute business of flush agenda members. If you anticipate about our business as software platforms, you can brainstorm new means of application things like Membership Rewards points. With the appropriate software, you can advance them as a basic bill that you could use for accustomed purchases. Most American Express associates anticipate of their rewards credibility as article to use for biking (primarily airlines or hotels), but now you can bash your agenda and use Membership Rewards credibility for a auto ride in New York City, or for arcade on Amazon. So we are not alone alive to abode new segments of the market, we’re additionally gluttonous means to put added aggregate on our absolute assets and reinforce our amount hypothesis for absolute customers.
Target afresh became the latest aggregation to ache from a all-embracing aperture of cyberbanking data. How are belief like this one alteration the way barter anticipate about their accord with cyberbanking casework providers?
In accession to my job at American Express, I’m additionally administrator of the lath of Symantec, one of the arch players in anti-virus and cyber-crime blockage software, so I apperceive immediate aloof how adult abounding of these attacks can be. I do anticipate that in a agenda future, consumers will added about-face to brands that they trust. Trust, security, and account are alike added important in a agenda world. At American Express, accepting 60 years of acquaintance in artifice and accident administration is article that we’re absolutely leveraging in our platform. It’s activity to be a bigger and bigger affair as we move added of our lives online.
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