Promoting Diversity - The American Express Way

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Case Details:

Case Code : HROB083
Case Length : 15 Pages
Period : 1981-2006
Pub. Date : 2006
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : American Express Company
Industry : Diversified
Countries : USA

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Introduction Contd...

AmEx was one of the forerunners in embracing diversity in its workforce in the US. The company not only made an active effort to recruit a diverse workforce, but also attempted to create an atmosphere and corporate culture where diversity thrived. AmEx was also one of the few large companies that had an African-American CEO, Kenneth Chenault (Chenault).


AmEx was originally set up in 1850 as an express company that forwarded freight and valuables across the US.

In the mid 1800s, the US postal system was not very well developed; not only was the service slow, but many far flung areas did not have any service at all. Besides, it was extremely unreliable and very often documents were lost en route.

Therefore, people were reluctant to send valuable papers and articles by post. Henry Wells, William Fargo, and John Butterfield recognized that the shortcomings of the US postal system provided a good business opportunity. When AmEx was started, it provided a service that was not only fast, but also reliable.

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Consequently, it earned a reputation as the best express company in the country at that time. In 1882, AmEx launched a money order business to compete against the money order service of the US Postal Department.

Around the same time the company also expanded into Europe with the same product. In Europe, the concept of money orders was still new and AmEx gained the first mover advantage. In 1891 the company created a new product known as the 'American Express Travelers Cheque' as a substitute to the traditional letters of credit people used when they traveled abroad.

The Travelers Cheque was launched in denominations of $10, $20, $50, and $100, and soon became popular with international travelers.

The Travelers Cheque triggered off AmEx's international expansion in a big way. In 1895, the company opened its first overseas office in Paris. This was followed by a London office in 1896...

By the early 1990s, AmEx had offices across Europe including Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. In the early 1900s, immigration into the US was at a high. In 1905 the US Immigration Department appointed AmEx to provide official currency exchange services to these immigrants. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 brought in new business opportunities for AmEx...

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