- Card company American Express on Friday reported lackluster growth in its U.S. commercial business for the second quarter, with CEO Steve Squeri chalking that up to spending pullbacks by its business customers. The company’s U.S. consumer and international business segments grew at faster rates.
- New York City-based Amex reported U.S. commercial card services experienced 2% volume growth in the second quarter versus that period last year: U.S. small and medium-sized business, which comprises 25% of the company’s total network volume, and U.S. large and global corporate, which makes up about 5% of volume, each grew 2% in the quarter, according to an earnings presentation.
- “There are these cycles, and at this particular point in time, you’re seeing a little bit of an industrywide slowdown from a small business perspective,” Amex CEO Steve Squeri said during a Friday conference call with analysts to discuss the company’s results.
Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have grappled with return-to-office plans. Business travel has been slower than leisure travel to bounce back, and the uncertain economic outlook hasn’t helped. Large corporate “is crawling its way back,” Squeri said Friday.
“The first step is to get people into the office, and the second step is to get them out onto the road,” Squeri said. “What you’re seeing a little bit less of is those one-stop trips: that quick hop to London to meet with that one client, or that quick run across the country to have an internal meeting. You’re seeing less of that.”
Squeri told analysts he expects those habits will return, albeit slowly. “I don’t think that’s coming back as fast,” compared to consumer spending, he said. Amex continues to “aggressively” retain and acquire those large business customers, he added.
The company’s U.S. consumer spending and its international card use by consumers as well as businesses all grew at faster rates — 10%, 16% and 19%, respectively. U.S. consumer card use is the Amex’s biggest business segment, accounting for 36% of payments volume, while international consumer use makes up 12%, and all of international corporate use accounts for 7%.
In the small and medium-size business segment, organic growth has slowed, affecting not just Amex but others serving that market, Squeri said. Small businesses grew rapidly during the pandemic, “and they have slowed down,” he said.
He noted SMBs use business credit cards “to run their entire business,” and many had been in heavy spend mode to build up inventory through the pandemic. “We’re going to watch it really closely in terms of, have they finally gotten to a full stop?” he said of SMB spending.
In the meantime, the company is focused on SMB customer acquisition and meeting entrepreneur needs relating to lending or deposits, so that “when they’re ready to grow again, we’ll be ready to grow judiciously with them,” he said.
American Express reported quarterly net income grew 11%, to $2.2 billion, on a 12% rise in revenue, to $15.1 billion, according to a Friday press release.