The Management Structure

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The management Structure

The management Structure

Though President Reed is its operating head, the management of the American Express Company includes a council of advisers, the most prominent of whom are Chairman of the Board Robert Livingston Clarkson and Vice-Chairman Lynde Selden.

Clarkson is a big, genial man who loves good company and a good story. He is a keen golfer and gives the impression of being an outdoor man and a sportsman. Be not deceived by that! Clarkson is an exceptionally able businessman and financier. Forty years in Wall Street have equipped him to exercise keen judgment in any matter concerning investments or new business.

Though he is kin to Johnston Livingston, one of the original founders of the American Express Company, Clarkson was not actively associated with it until 1934. At that time he made an intensive study of the company and realized its potentialities. He became an important stockholder in the Amerex Holding Company, which owns more than 99 per cent of the stock of the American Express Company, and was elected chairman of the Board of both companies.

In 1936, Lynde Selden, a former associate of Clarkson's in the Chase National Bank, joined American Express. Selden came in as executive vice-president of The American Express Company, Incorporated, the wholly owned foreign operating unit of the American Express Company. Selden has been an invaluable adviser on foreign affairs. As a youth he lived all over the world, from Colorado, where he was raised, and Korea, where his father was in business, to Europe, where he went to school before completing his education in America. As a result he has what he calls a "foreign flair," an intimate understanding of European and Asiatic problems and peoples.

The way Reed and his advisers steered American Express through the maelstrom of war shows their managerial acumen. The company's European business was booming in 1939, until on September 1 Hitler's Panzer divisions roared across Poland's frontier. That meant the end of American travel in Europe for the duration. Conservative estimates indicated that it also meant a drop of £2,500,000 in the revenues of American Express.

Successful businesses are conducted by foresight, not hindsight. The management of American Express had its plans already made for this contingency. It knew just where to cut costs and how; which of its European personnel would be called to arms; and which of the American employees could best be spared. The whole pattern of retrenchment was blueprinted.

As a result, within three months of the outbreak of war, overhead had been cut by £2,000,000 to offset the expected decline in revenue, and the number of employees reduced from 4,700 to 1,200. Nor were these men and women workers simply thrown out on the street. An employment division was set up in the company to find jobs for them, an easy task in the war-stimulated economy of the country. This quick thinking and quick action enabled the net profits of American Express to hold up and even increase during the war years.


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What next? Ralph Reed

Ralph Reed

Ralph Reed has always been a leader. At high school he was captain of the football team, president of his class, and first-honour man. Determined to get a college education, he took a job in Philadelphia and went to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania at night, where again he was elected class president. He received his degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1915. Reed came to American Express in 1919 as assistant to the comptroller. But Ralph Reed was not cut out to be an assistant for long, and he quickly rose to a key executive position in the company. When President Frederick P. Small was made chairman of the Executive Committee on January 4, 1944, Reed was elected president of the American Express Company. He was the unanimous choice, not only because of his drive and ability, but because he can command the loyalty of his associates.

The president of American Express is the hardest-working man in the company. One official humorously... see: Ralph Reed


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