American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault is retiring from his post after 30 years of being associated with the company.
Chenault joined the company in 1981 after graduating from Bowdoin College and Harvard Law School. His accession was fairly quick, as he was named president and chief operating officer in 1997. He has been the CEO of the company since 2001. He is also one of the best-paid executives in the financial services industry, taking home $22 million in 2016.
This resignation marks the end of a 17-year run as CEO and a 37-year career with the company. Under Chennault, the company’s stock has returned 5.4 percent annually since December 2000. That’s nearly double the 2.6 percent annual return of the financial sector since that time.
“We’re starting a new chapter from a position of strength, and this is the right time to make the leadership transition to someone who’s played a central role in all that we’ve accomplished,” said Chenault in a statement. “We’ve dealt effectively with competitive challenges and redesigned our marketing, customer service and risk management capabilities for the digital age.”
American Express’ Board of Directors has named Stephen Squeri as the new CEO and chairman of the board. Squeri has served as vice chairman since 2015 and previously ran the company’s global corporate services group. He will assume the office on Feb. 1, 2018. Tasked with guiding the company into its next phase, Squeri is credited with building the company’s commercial payments business and transforming its technology infrastructure, as well as leading the latest restructuring effort.
Billionaire Warren Buffett, who first invested in American Express in 1964 and is now the company’s largest shareholder, voiced his support both for Chenault’s leadership and the change in the corner office. “Ken built on its storied history – not by abandoning traditional strengths but by building on them and adding new ones,” he said in a statement.