Jorge de Lara
Vice President of Global Commercial Services at American Express Mexico and Latin America
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View from the Top

Laser Focus on Customer Needs Drives Continuous Evolution

By Peter Appleby | Wed, 11/25/2020 - 10:40

Q: What technology-led trends has American Express identified during and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: Digitalization has been a big trend for four or five years now, in various ways and in various segments of the industry. COVID-19 accelerated all of this as people began buying via digital channels, which has now tripled during the pre-pandemic period. This is because movement has been restricted and also because people are now feeling more comfortable with digital channels.

American Express has been offering digital payment methods for a while but we are enhancing them so that businesses and companies are able to transact digitally, without human interaction. Our clients, and SMEs in particular, are taking advantage of these solutions to engage digitally with clients and suppliers. Companies are also pushing toward digital client acquisition from an end-to-end point of view: banks, financial institutions and fintechs are all chasing the full, digital acquisition experience. Another element pushing this is that individual clients are strongly averse to engaging with companies over the phone; they want a digital service. This pushes companies to mobile devices, as well as the web. This is positive because we can serve clients quicker and more cost-effectively.

Q: How can American Express take advantage of Mexico’s fintech boom?

A: These companies have been successful in rapidly building cost-efficient, customer-focused and customer-friendly services, which makes them a good partnering option. American Express sees the fintech community as a strong source of partnership opportunities to expand our reach. We already have partnerships with a few very interesting fintech companies at the moment. We are planning to leverage their capabilities in areas to complement us. Rather than going head-to-head with fintechs to compete for the same clients, we rather partnering.

Q: What is American Express’ differentiator?

A: The first is that we are 100 percent focused on the client. This is not simply a motto. Every decision we make is client-centric. Our Business Advisory Model includes each of our clients in a portfolio managed by a member of our staff. We ensure that during the onboarding process, our clients are educated in exercising the services we offer so that they receive the service they need. Once the client is ready, we offer them additional information and solutions that meet other needs based on AI and data analytics. These may be solutions based on their needs but we also offer industry, geography or size-specific solutions.

The other differentiator American Express offers is that it does not discriminate by size, segment or geography. We have a few set rules for becoming an American Express client, such as two years’ worth of tax returns and proof of income. Originally, we offered corporate cards for travel and expense (T&E) use, but we then realized companies have needs outside these requirements. This pushed us to centralize T&E requirements that could manage all needs for a conference the company organizes, for example. Another change happened when we saw clients had the need for centralized spending on utilities, insurance or rent. Via our platforms, clients can access all transactional information on their account so that they have all information required in one place for accounting, fiscal or treasury purposes.

On the B2B side of the business, we have adapted our original holistic accounts payable solution by integrating clients of clients to receive their accounts receivables and offer a true 360° solution.

Q: How important is Mexico to American Express globally?

A: Mexico is an extremely important and strategic market for American Express. It is included in our overall strategy as a Top 5 leading market, regardless of the current size of the economy or its characterization as a developing nation. This is due to the results we have seen in Mexico and the opportunities that we have identified for the future. We believe that Mexico is among the Top 5 nations where our footprint will grow based on our value proposition.

The first American Express office outside the US was in Acapulco and it opened 169 years ago. Our brand is well-positioned and people rely on our services. They trust us and that is the most important thing.

Businesses and companies of all sizes across Mexico and all geographies are facing extremely difficult times. I believe that 2021 will be brighter than 2020 but it is still a very uncertain future we are sharing. Economic recovery is uncertain, but we remain optimistic. We must be here for the long term, backing our clients to meet as many of their strategic needs as possible in a sustainable way. Mexico’s SMEs are a very strong part of the economy and we are here to help them. We are just finishing the 2020 edition of “Shop Small” that was aimed at cardmembers. This helps merchants through the crisis and promoted the use of our solutions but also helped us to engage with our clients and affiliates to strengthen the ecosystem we foster.

 

American Express is a financial institution best known for its credit cards. It first moved into Mexico 169 years ago and has both consumer and B2B service offerings

Peter Appleby Peter Appleby Journalist and Industry Analyst