Money & Banking

Online spends will make a big comeback once normalcy returns: Amex India chief

K.R.Srivats New Delhi | Updated on May 01, 2020 Published on May 01, 2020

Manoj Adlakha, Senior Vice-President and Chief Executive Officer, American Express Banking Corp India

For American Express in India, Covid-19 has been somewhat of a mixed bag when it comes to the impact on card spends. While online spends (which account for 50 per cent of its customer spends), have improved in certain areas such as online education and groceries, there has been a definite hit in segments such as travel and entertainment-related spends. In an interaction with BusinessLine, Manoj Adlakha, Senior Vice-President and Chief Executive Officer, American Express Banking Corp India, spoke on how Amex intends to navigate the post-Covid-19 world. Excerpts:

Did Covid-19 catch Amex by surprise, and how are you coping with its impact?

With its legacy of more than 170 years, Amex has weathered every storm in the past, including the two World Wars, Spanish Flu, 9/11 and global financial crisis. We have strong business continuity plans to account for calamity and disaster situations thatimpact business. As a global organisation, we saw it (Covid-19) coming and we were fully prepared for it in the Indian context. We were not taken by surprise. There was a build up. Everyone saw this coming, but nobody knew in what form and shape it would come. Our framework that’s guiding us through the current situation is based on 4 principles — supporting our colleagues and winning as a team, protecting our customers and brand, structuring the company for growth in the future, and remaining financially strong.

What are some of the learnings for you from this situation?

Professionally, this experience has taught me how to deal with a highly uncertain environment and to keep the organisation razor-focussed on the customer irrespective of what the situation is. The team has done a tremendous job of supporting our customers and merchant partners during this period.

How are you walking the extra mile for customers in these trying times?

We have adopted proactive communication and engagement with our customers. For instance, I have been in touch directly with some of our long-standing customers through e-mail and direct calls.

We have taken novel initiatives such as extending and enhancing various benefits for our card members. For instance, we have digitally extended the validity of all cards expiring in April for five years and injected more value into our products so that our customers get additional benefits for their spends that they are making at this time.

We are providing higher reward points for spends on online education and tutorials and have been extending the validity of vouchers (say Taj Hotel stay vouchers) we offer to our customers. We have also extended moratorium as per the RBI guidelines.

With the 40-day lockdown in India now in full force, has your card spends gone down? Which categories are seeing high usage?

We see online spends have increased on utilities, healthcare, insurance, digital publications and groceries. With limited to no opportunities to spend, the industry is witnessing the impact on card spends. Infact, online education spends have gone through the roof.

I am confident that overall online spends that we saw prior to Covid-19 will make a comeback once things settle. However, it is still difficult to predict when travel and entertainment spends will return. It would be unfair to predict this and we are on a ‘wait-and-watch’ mode.

Does the new Covid-19 situation compel you to change your strategic direction?

No strategic intent gets changed because of events. We are not looking to change our strategic direction because of Covid-19. Our strategy has got us to where we are today and where we will be tomorrow. We continue to see online as an important thrust area for us. It is also not fair to project any financial outlook for Amex in India in these volatile and dynamic times.We will continue to expand our leadership in the premium consumer space, build on our strong position in commercial payments, strengthen our global integrated network, and make American Express an essential part of our customers’ digital lives.

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Published on May 01, 2020
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