Worldwide Coverage

Popular Reading


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. Owing to his tireless efforts and to British justice and fair play, the American Express eventually recovered almost the entire amount. In 1946 and 1947 the Hong Kong office had one of the most prosperous periods in its history and was able to render considerable aid to the government in connection with putting Hong Kong back on its feet again after four and a half years of enemy occupation. I:

Despite the company's policy of manning offices abroad mainly with citizens of the country where the office is located, some important personnel in the company's Foreign Service must necessarily be American. To train them for their intricate tasks, which in a small office means performing all the functions from selling Travellers Cheques and Foreign Remittances to planning tours and forwarding freight, American Express operates a training school, under the direction of Personnel Director Richard Taylor and Assistant Vice-President George C. Finehout.

The school is in a long room, bright with travel posters and stocked with all the forms and records which the company uses. In the centre is a long table around which the trainees sit more in the manner of a conference than a class. The average number of trainees at any one time is twenty-five. They come from all parts of the country and are selected primarily for executive ability and initiative. Because of the opportunities it offers, American Express gets the pick of the crop.

The trainees are given an intensive three months' course. It includes lectures by railroad officials, shipping magnates, aviation experts, leading hotel men, and, of course, all the heads of departments of the company. They also receive fieldwork training by visits to railroad terminals, banks, liners in dock, and American Express travel offices. President Reed is especially interested in the school, which he regards as important in developing practical experience and executive ability.

Richard Taylor also directs the program of employee activities and benefits sponsored by American Express. These include some of the most modem provisions for employees, several of which American Express pioneered years ago.

In general, the team play that makes the management of American Express co-ordinated and efficient carries down through the whole organization. The efficiency of a great industrial enterprise, a railroad, mining operation, or transportation company depends to a great extent on the perfect functioning of the actual physical machinery, the rolling mills or production lines, the ore-cutting tools, conveyor belts, stamping mills, locomotives, ships, or planes. The efficiency of American Express depends on its personnel. From vice-presidents in charge of divisions down to the young women whose flying fingers sort millions of dollars in cancelled Travellers Cheques every day, each must be a precision part fitting perfectly in his or her niche. And each must also do what can be accomplished by no machine yet made by man - not even the super-human electronic calculators - each must have the initiative to handle the exceptions which are the rule in the un-standardised operations of the company.

An example of this quality demonstrated by an employee, whose function seemed mechanical, occurred in the summer of 1949. At that time an underworld ring made and started to pass £400,000 worth of counterfeit American Express Travellers Cheques. The very first of these counterfeits to reach the home office was detected by a girl sorter who noticed that the texture of one Cheque among thousands she was handling felt slightly strange. She reported it immediately to her division manager and, within a matter of minutes, the hunt, which eventually led to the apprehension of the counterfeiters, was on.

A very different occurrence displayed the same spirit. In Spitzbergen, above the Arctic Circle, some polar bears were loaded on a ship consigned to the American Express Company. A sudden bad break in the weather to _.400 turned the ship into a mass of ice with her water supply frozen solid. The crew temporarily abandoned the vessel, but the American Expressman in charge was not going to lose his polar bears. By cajolery and cash he persuaded a local plumber to run a pipe from the city water supply to the ship, thus preventing his charges from dying of thirst until the water tanks could be thawed out and the voyage begun.

Such incidents, repeated almost daily in the course of thousands of unorthodox operations, represent the essential combination of team play and initiative that makes it possible for American Express to carry on its exciting business of supplying personal service to a planet.

Interested in African American Business Directory?

What next? Public Relations

Public Relations

The importance which the company places on advertising and public relations can be understood from President Reed's own words, "We have to be great salesmen because all we have to sell is service." Robert R. Mathews is vice-president in charge of advertising. He is also an expert public relations man, and it is his job to keep American Express's best foot forward in the public view. This he does with consistent effectiveness.

Of course, as might be expected in an organization with a comprehensive network of offices and bureaus covering all sections of the United States and a system of branches abroad which girdles the globe, the purely administrative departments play an important part in the success of the company. The District Office Administration is an example. This department is responsible for manning and supervising the twenty-five district offices, two travel offices, and twenty-eight travel bureaus in North America. It is under the direction of Vice-President... see: Public Relations

Of interest

Services overview

  • You can send us an email if you want to know more about waht we do and we will get back to you as soon as we are able.

  • Want to be a published author
    We publish articles on this site if they fulfil our requirments. more>>