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June 15, 2021

American Express: Our Future Way of Working Model

New York, NY, June 15, 2021 – The following memo from Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stephen J. Squeri was sent today to all American Express colleagues:

The COVID pandemic has affected all of us in many ways, both personally and professionally. We’ve had a lot of change to process, including adjusting to working from home every day. As you know, over the last several months, we started the phased re-opening of many of our office locations. Today, as conditions continue to improve in a number of markets, I want to share more information about our future working model and the principles we are using to guide our decisions.

Many of you have told us that you are looking forward to coming back to the office to be with your colleagues again. I am too. However, you also told us that you have some concerns about this transition. We will continue to listen, gather feedback, and evolve our plans as we get ready to enter this new phase, while keeping in mind that the pandemic is in different stages around the world. Every market is starting from a different place in terms of infection rates, lockdowns, and vaccination availability, so each will be on a different timetable for moving to our future working model.

Our Culture

Our culture of backing our colleagues, customers, and communities has enabled American Express to become one of the most respected and successful companies in the world. We built this incredible culture largely through working together – collaborating, innovating, and learning from one another – in person. I strongly believe that the relationships we built by being together before the pandemic are a major reason why we’ve been able to come through this period so successfully, with our culture and customers intact. We do not want to lose that, and many of you told us via survey feedback that you agree. That is why we believe the best way forward – when the time is right – is to strike a balance between working in the office some days each week, while giving you a choice where you work the other days.

Of course, some colleagues, such as those who work in field sales or home-based servicing roles, have been working 100 percent virtually before the pandemic, and they will continue to do so. In addition, for many years, we have had a flexible work arrangement policy in many markets, which enables some colleagues – based on need and leadership approval – to have partial or fully virtual work schedules, and we will continue this policy. While I expect we will ultimately have some additional colleagues working virtually or on flexible work arrangements, I expect most colleagues will work in our new hybrid format, because I believe that is best for our business, our customers, and our culture.

We have been away from the office for a long time, and, like many other aspects of our lives, returning to our pre-pandemic work routines will no doubt be an adjustment. In places where conditions are significantly improving, people are beginning to experience the excitement of reconnecting with friends, attending gatherings, and traveling again. I believe the most important thing for our business and for us as a team is to recapture the same energy, camaraderie and sense of community that being together provides, as soon as the time is right to do so.

Our Approach

In planning our new model, we carefully considered many factors, including the responses you provided in our colleague surveys, the needs of our customers and business, the collaborative culture we want to preserve, and the lessons we learned during the pandemic. With these considerations in mind, and guided by our continuing commitment to keeping your health and safety as our top priority, we established the following principles:

  • We must ensure our new work model will deliver superior outcomes for our customers and our business.
  • We believe that being in the office together is an important part of what makes our culture special. Spending time together deepens connections, builds unity, fosters community and enterprise thinking, and creates opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and spontaneous innovation.
  • We also want to keep aspects of the virtual environment that have been working well for us, such as greater inclusivity across our global colleague base, increased work-life balance, an enhanced digital mindset, and cutting through bureaucracy to get things done.
  • We will implement a consistent enterprise framework, with common policies and guidelines, while factoring in variations as needed for different markets and job categories.
  • We will move to the new model only when conditions in a market or region are right, guided by several criteria including COVID cases and vaccination rates in the community, as well as local government requirements. Colleague health and safety will never be compromised.
  • The pandemic has taught us that we can’t know how the world will evolve. As we move through this together, we will continuously seek colleague feedback, monitor local conditions, and adjust, as needed.

Our New Model

With these principles as a guide, we will introduce a new hybrid model over time that will blend three days of working in the office and two days working where colleagues choose. These “colleague choice days,” as we are calling them, will give our colleagues the ability to work virtually or in the office, whatever their preference.

This blend of in-office and colleague choice days will be the default for most colleagues. There will be some exceptions:

  • Those colleagues who worked 100% virtually prior to the pandemic will continue to work virtually.
  • Colleagues who had flexible work arrangements before the pandemic will continue those arrangements.
  • Colleagues who cannot perform their jobs effectively from home will be required to come into the office every day.

Individual markets will have discretion regarding which two days of the week will be colleague choice days and which three will be designated in-office days, subject to approval from the Return to Office Steering Committee.

We will assess the effectiveness of our new hybrid model on an ongoing basis to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers and colleagues, and we will make modifications as necessary.

How Our New Hybrid Model Will Work

The U.S. and U.K. will be the first to adopt our new hybrid model starting on September 13, 2021. The start date in the U.K. is pending the lifting of local restrictions which, as the government announced yesterday, have been extended for an additional four weeks. Other markets will transition at later dates depending on local conditions. Colleagues will be given a minimum of 60 days advance notice before moving to the new way of working in each location, and in all cases, we will comply with local laws and consultation requirements.

This is what the shift to our new model will look like in the U.S. and U.K., where we are starting first:

Transition Period – The first three weeks will be a transition period as colleagues get used to coming back into the office. During this time, most U.S. and U.K. colleagues will work in the office for two days a week and work virtually the other three days. Schedules will be arranged on a location-by-location basis so that, in general, no more than 50 percent of colleagues will be in the office on any given day. We will learn from our experiences and listen to colleagues about what is working well and what we need to adjust, where appropriate.

Full Adoption – Starting the week of October 4, our plan is for most colleagues in the U.S. and U.K. to work in the office for three days each week, with two days as colleague choice days, meaning colleagues can choose to work in the office or virtually. In general, days in the office for a large percentage of colleagues will be Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with Mondays and Fridays as colleague choice days. Having colleagues in the office on the same three days will drive collaboration and enable us to get the most out of being together.

Although we intend to move to full adoption in the U.S. and U.K. in October, our ultimate decision on when to move forward will depend on local conditions and health authority guidance, as well as local government requirements. As always, colleague health and safety remain our number one priority. In addition, we will continue to evaluate the situation from October until the end of the year, and, depending on what we learn about how best to maximize business outcomes, we may allow colleagues more flexibility in choosing which days to come into the office.

Scheduling of specific in-office and virtual days for frontline and back office servicing colleagues and Technology scrum teams will be determined by the senior leaders in those organizations, based on shift requirements and business needs. Most other colleagues in Technology, the Global Services Group, and Travel & Lifestyle Services will follow the company standard hybrid model. More details will be communicated shortly.

In general, contractors and consultants will be invited back to the office in September only if they have been deemed business critical, their function requires them to be onsite, or it is necessary to comply with regulatory requirements. Decisions may vary by market and business unit. More details will be provided as decisions are made.

Current Policy Remains in Effect Until the Transition

Because local conditions vary widely by market, transitioning to the new hybrid model will take on a different timetable depending on where you are, with some markets making changes much later than others. Until the transition is scheduled for your market, our existing work-from-home policy will remain in place. Today, 40 Amex locations around the world are open on a limited basis, and we’ll continue to open office locations in phases where it makes sense, based on local guidelines and public health data.

Next Steps

In closing, I want to be very clear: We are in a learning mode. The Executive Committee and I have put a lot of thought into developing our hybrid model with the intent of leveraging the best of both worlds – combining the unique energy and community of our in-person culture with the agility and flexibility we have established working virtually throughout the pandemic. We will ease colleagues into our new way of working, see what works and what doesn’t, listen to your feedback, and adjust as necessary to meet the needs of our customers, our business, and our colleagues. Together, we will create the environment that will lead American Express into the future.

Once again, I want to say how proud I am of what you have accomplished over the past 15 months. Your resilience and determination in the face of unprecedented challenges and change have been inspiring, and we will build upon the lessons we have learned together as we bring our new way of working to life. I cannot wait to see and interact with you again in person, and I know that we will only grow stronger and better as a team in the years ahead.

Thank you for your unwavering commitment to our customers and for backing your colleagues every day.

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About American Express

American Express is a globally integrated payments company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress , instagram.com/americanexpress , linkedin.com/company/american-express , twitter.com/americanexpress , and youtube.com/americanexpress .

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Media Contact:

Leah M. Gerstner, Leah.M.Gerstner@aexp.com, 212-640-3174

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