America's Top 20 Bank Holding Companies

American Express Company

American Express, which is currently ranked eighteenth by the FFIEC, was founded in 1850 and is one of the thirty stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Both Business Week magazine and Interbrand currently rank American Express at 22nd on their list of most valuable brands. American Express, which is best known for its charge card business, makes up approximately 24% of all US credit card transactions. This is the highest percentage of any US charge or credit card issuing bank.

American Express began its business as an express mail service based in Albany, New York in 1850. The founders who began the company are the same founders of Wells Fargo & Company, which began in California in 1852. The original corporate headquarters for the business was situated at the intersection of Jay and Hudson Streets in Tribeca, Manhattan. The headquarters was relocated to 65 Broadway Street, in the future Manhattan Financial District. The stables for the express mail business were located on a piece of property that was purchased on Vesey Street in New York. From the 1880s through 1903, American Express enjoyed the success of its shipping endeavors, becoming one of the most dominant shippers in the country.

The 21 story American Express Building was developed and constructed at 65 Broadway, to consolidate the two existing buildings into a New York landmark location. Construction lasted from 1916 through 1917 and concluded with the completion of the neo-classical structure that still stands in place today. The transition from exclusive shipping to financial services occurred in 1882 with the introduction of a money order service for customers. In 1891, at the concern of one of the founders, American Express launched their traveler's cheque business, which has assisted millions of travelers around the world. The cheques, which are equivalent to cash at thousands of locations around the world, where a novel and enduring way for people to travel without carrying large amounts of cash.

Advancing from the original paper cards, that were hand typed with the card member's name and card number, to the first embossed cards in 1959, American Express issued their Gold Card in 1966 and the Platinum Card in 1984. All of the American Express issued charge cards carried a term of net 30 for payment, except the Optima card that was issued in 1987. Both the Optima, and now the Open, Cards carry revolving terms that allow card-holders to pay off their debt over time, as opposed to requiring the entire balance to be paid in full every month.

Internationally, major corporate offices are located in Westminster, London, UK, Miami, Florida (handling the Caribbean and Latin American interests), and Singapore, China. American Express is also building a significant presence in New Delhi, India, with a center that handles customer service back-office operations for their domestic Indian interests.

American Express is currently headquartered at Three World Trade Center in New York and weathered the September 11th attack only needing minor rehabilitation to the building. There are additional major offices in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Greensboro, North Carolina, Salt Lake City, Utah and Phoenix, Arizona. All of these places are located in relation to good weather, available work-force and financial centers. The American Express technology office, housing their corporate-wide information technology department, is located in Weston, Florida, with the major call-center for customer service residing in Phoenix, Arizona.