AMEX stands for American express operates in over 130 countries around the globe.
The tale of American Express is a mesmerizing one filled with interesting and quirky characters who — through a combination of brains, perseverance and luck — shaped the company’s development during the past century and a half.
The express company that forwarded freight and valuables evolved into a company that created and sold financial products like money orders and travelers cheques. Following an era of international expansion, the company became an entity perhaps best known for its charge card. Today, American Express is a global payments company.
The attributes today are the hallmarks of the American Express brand — trust, integrity, security, quality, customer service — all have their roots in this compelling story. In this history, as well, are the genesis and development of the company’s aspiration to become the world’s most respected service brand.
American Express Company was among the first and most successful express delivery businesses to arise during the rapid westward expansion of the United States since its inception in New York in 1850. The United States Postal Service was slow at the time as well as nonexistent in some areas and not to mention expensive. A fair number of deliveries were stolen or lost on route to their destination, nothing larger than a letter sized envelope could be sent by mail and definitely nothing valuable.
Although in its early years American Express was not itself a financial services company, its largest and most consistent clients were banks. Delivering the banks’ typically small parcels – stock certificates, notes, currency and other financial instruments – was considerably more profitable than transporting larger freight. Soon the company would scale down its parcel and freight delivery business in favor of creating and selling its own financial products.
The express companies served as a lifeline to the growing nation. Intrepid express men, normally on horseback or driving stagecoaches, traversed from the eastern cities to the western frontier, transporting correspondence, parcels, freight, gold and currency, among countless other goods. American Express quickly earned a reputation as the best in the fledgling industry – the company that delivered, literally.
Although foreign exchange transactions were conducted as early as 1895 by the Paris office, the official initiation of the company’s overseas banking operations took place in 1904, when the Rotterdam office opened in Netherlands and began conducting commercial banking services. It was the outbreak of World War I in Europe that revolutionized the American Express and more fully shaped it, into a travel services company. During the 1914 war in Europe, AMEX was used to deliver relief parcels, money and letters to British prisoners of war in Germany. This was evidence of AMEX’s ability to reach even the seemingly unreachable.