Amex CEO: I don’t care if plastic disappears

Amex Apple PayKen Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express, isn’t concerned about plastic credit cards disappearing from wallets around the world.

“The reality is from a form factor standpoint, I really don’t care if plastic goes away,” Chenault said.

Speaking on the future of the payments industry at the NRF Big Show in New York earlier this year, Chenault said a key trend is relevance.

“We want to be where our customers are, and that means you need to be in the right place at the right time with the right offer.”

Staying relevant in 2016 means integrating into mobile and investing in new partnerships, he said. 

“The card really was a platform to deliver services to the business traveller,” Chenault said. “And if you look at American Express, we didn’t just facilitate a payment; we helped in the entire travel experience from beginning to end.

“That is exactly what we are doing in commerce. And that’s what we have to accelerate, because the reality is we have very valuable data on spending patterns, [and] we have very valuable data on spending needs. So what are the insights that we can provide?”

Chenault described the ‘closed loop’ of transactions, which Amex facilitates – payments on the merchant side, mirrored by consumer transactions. Leveraging this data to provide insights, services and rewards is the company’s value proposition.

“We have to think about the overall commerce experience and how we work with all participants in this commerce experience. If the only thing we are doing is facilitating a payment, we become a commodity,” Chenault said.

Amex, which has formed relationships with Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, aims to demonstrate to its partners that it can deliver unique services and values.

“What we found is in the relationships we have – whether it’s with Uber, whether it’s with Airbnb, whether it’s with other retailers – if we are providing the services and capabilities, membership and rewards we have put on mobile.”

Although mobile payments are becoming more mainstream, Chenault doesn’t think plastic is going away any time soon. He believes the adoption of mobile payments will depend on the supporting benefits.

“One of the important things about mobile payments, which is going to be critical, is it is not simply enough to say, ‘I’m going to tap my phone’ because the time it takes pull out your card versus tapping your phone is not a big difference,” Chenault said.

“What will be important for a more accelerated adoption of mobile pay is, ‘what’s the value’? What’s the reward I get? What’s the service I get? And that’s where we come in.”

This article was originally published in Inside Retail’s February magazine, click here to subscribe.

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