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AIIB vs. American Express culture

Popularity 3Viewed 4080 times 2016-1-18 07:50 |System category:Life| culture, bank, AIIB, american, express

I am most excited about the recent official launch of the AIIB in Beijing.

Before I became a published author, I spent 5 years working with American Express in Asia Pacific. Sydney, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur offices holding various roles from Customer Experience Manager to Team Leader.

Rightly or wrongly, the American way of managing a financial institution proves to be very interesting. I will not share my previous company's secrets. However, I will share the ethos or principles behind Amex's success.

1. Being a responsible lender - This was the most important message inculcated into my head throughout my tenure in this company. I have heard of living within our means etc. But it was the first that i heard of being a responsible lender. So profound. When a company is in the business of making money by lending people money and earning from their interest especially in late payments, rolling credit etc. It is almost against the very nature of the company in being a responsible lender as the company would have to put the customer's interest first. Then again if you look at all the successful companies in the world, they are successful simply because they treat their customers as humans first, a paying customer second.

2. Focus on the core business - Amex managed to stay afloat during the disruptive Great Financial Crisis of 2009/10. How did it do so? From my observations and opinions I believe it was due to strong leadership and staying focused. Focusing on the core business in being a payment solutions company, ring-fencing the top customers. Resist the temptation to deviate or expand aggressively and recklessly, which again in my opinion proves to be against the very dynamic and fast paced nature of Western companies.

3. Lead by example - During the tumultuous Great Financial Crisis, I was in awe when the CEO then made a public announcement of cutting his privileges as the CEO. He stopped traveling Fist/Business class and tightened company's T&E (travel and entertainment) expenses to a bare minimum. Needless to say he earned the employees' respect and we followed suit even to simple things like being frugal with our office pantry's tea bags and milk. If charity starts from home, then prudence begins in the office.

I look forward to seeing AIIB making a meaningful impact in the world, especially when most of the Westernsphere is facing financial difficulties. Like most things in life, everything rides on a cycle. Yin and Yang. Ebb and flow. I hope China can again lead the example by being a supportive comrade to her peers in need, and may these peers not take China for granted.

Time will tell.


(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report Dr.Bill.Shen 2016-1-18 11:47
I don't think amex business resembles a banking model. your asset is all short dated and far less concentrated. you make most of your money from venders accepting amex as a payment method. in terms of corporate governance, i agree with you.
Reply Report seneca 2016-1-19 17:32
You are de girl from the money-lending front - I am not even a borrower, so my interest in finance and related topics is minimal. But I read your piece with interest. In my school day, I was taught not to borrow money unless absolutely needed. Today I see that banks are using ever more coercive and unfair means to get their accountholders to become paying customers rather than just being account holders who derive profits from lending money to the banks.

Ethics and integrity are going to be in big demand in the very near future. I hope your piece makes many  readers aware. Too much money has been lent to too many profligate national economies and states. That money is account holders'. In some cases it is lost for good.
Reply Report jaseminsibo 2016-1-20 07:03
seneca: You are de girl from the money-lending front - I am not even a borrower, so my interest in finance and related topics is minimal. But I read your piec ...
Yes. From a business standpoint banks are in the business of making profits. One of which includes customers borrowing/overdraft thus incurring high interest rates. Unscrupulous banks would take advantage of this and 'allow' even some 'coerce' customers to spend beyond their means. However, this is far too short sighted as can be attested with the Great Financial Crisis of 2009/10.

Wise companies know that it is all about relationships with customers. One of mutual trust, respect and win-win. Too many small timers make a quick buck but karma will eventually bite their ass and they will go bust. This is the law of nature.

Do no harm to others.
Reply Report CarolleRain 2016-1-22 11:38
After reading your blog, I don't know what to comment. Your world view is much broader than mine. And you showed your keen insights. So I can only say I have learnt a lot from you~_~I am looking forward to your next blog
Reply Report jaseminsibo 2016-1-23 05:48
CarolleRain: After reading your blog, I don't know what to comment. Your world view is much broader than mine. And you showed your keen insights. So I can only say ...
Thank you, xie xie

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