Cheques, Balances, And Detectives

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THE BIGGEST DIVISION of the American Express Company is the Comptroller's Office, where Paul R. Ross, a slender, greying man, presides over financial transactions that literally run to billions of dollars a year. Nearly 80 per cent of the employees at headquarters in New York work under his direction, and the department overflows the space available in the main building and has sections on Trinity Place and at 61 Hudson Street.

This is necessary, for what with Money Orders, Letters of Credit, Foreign Remittances, and - especially! - Travellers Cheques, this department is responsible for the accounting of the great volume of business of the company and the preparation of financial statements and reports. Sales of Travellers Cheques are made through 28,000 outlets around the world, and the amount of bookkeeping entailed thereby is enormous. Several million people purchase American Express Travellers Cheques every year, and they negotiate them in cities, towns, and villages wherever they may happen to be. Each of those little blue pieces of paper starts from 65 Broadway, and to it each eventually returns to be checked and double-checked, and at last to find its precise place in a properly marked envelope in one of the thousands of small cardboard files that fill a block-long room.

Because of this running inventory of all outstanding Cheques, money can be refunded promptly on any that are lost or stolen. Recently an airplane pilot flying the Pacific radioed that he had lost £700 worth of Travellers Cheques. When he landed at San Francisco the following morning, the refund was waiting for him.

Money Orders, Letters of Credit, and Foreign Remittances are kept track of by an equally accurate though slightly different system of accounting. The Money Orders are sold all over the United States at corner drugstores, florist shops, hardware stores, and all sorts of neighbourhood shops, as well as in Western Union offices and by the Railway Express. They are much used for paying utility company and other bills, and American Express offices also act as collection agencies for utility companies in many cities.

The office of Vice-President and Treasurer Olaf Ravndal has charge of unissued financial paper - which is as negotiable as money. The Treasurer's Office is also responsible for the safekeeping of the great portfolio of securities, handling bank accounts, and the operation of the New York Agency of the Incorporated Company. Ravndal's vision is world-wide, and he keeps his finger on the financial pulse of the world, whether in terms of dollars or sterling, pesos, francs, or Hong Kong dollars.

William H. Stetser heads the important Financial Sales Department which keeps the Cheques and other financial paper moving and the dollars flowing in. Harry Stetser is a militant crusader with a burning faith in the efficacy of Travellers Cheques. He believes that the seller of an American Express Travellers Cheque is doing the buyer a favour, for he is enabling him to protect his money by the safest method in the world.

Part of the system of keeping the Cheques moving is to make sure that banks and other outlets keep a good supply on hand. The record of how many unused Cheques each of the outlets has on hand is constantly checked, and when the stock of one of them falls below normal, a fresh supply is automatically shipped to it. It is like your oilman calling to read the gauge and to keep the tank full, but it is done for 28,000 sales outlets.

Besides this, Stetser keeps an aggressive sales organization constantly working to promote new prospects and increase sales in established outlets. Since 1942, sales of Travellers Cheques have increased almost five times, and 1950 is the biggest year ever.

The Foreign Remittance and Exchange Department is presided over by John P. Wagman, assisted by John J. L. Demlen. It is located in the Trinity Place building. Originally the department was started to take care of money which immigrants to the United States wished to send back to the folks at home. In those days of unrestricted immigration, from one to two million would-be citizens arrived to seek their fortunes in America every year; and, since many of them succeeded, the Foreign Remittance business was very large. It is still sizable; and to help his foreign clients, Wagman's staff has men who can speak virtually every language in the world.

American Business Universities in 2015

What next? Worldwide Coverage

Worldwide Coverage

The American Express offices in South Africa, South America, India, and the Orient report to Vice-President Frank Groves, who is now at 65 Broadway. Immaculately dressed in tropical whites, he has been for twenty-five years a familiar figure in the East, from Port Said to Raffles Hotel in Singapore, with a host of friends in every port. The respect with which he was regarded by the British Government was demonstrated by his appointment as a justice of the peace for the colony of Hong Kong, in which capacity he frequently sat as a magistrate and dealt out justice in the Hong Kong law courts during the difficult post-war period.

When Groves returned to Hong Kong after the war in November 1945, after hardly sufficient time to recover from the effects of his long incarceration in Santo Tomas, he found the Japs had seized about two million dollars of the company funds and had also allowed borrowers to repay their loans in' worthless Japanese "Mickey Mouse" money.... see: Worldwide Coverage

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