The Business Year

Mazin Khoury

UAE, DUBAI - Finance

Way to Pay

CEO, American Express, Middle East & North Africa

Bio

Mazin Khoury has more than two decades of experience gained in the financial services industry. He first joined American Express in 1989, serving as COO of American Express Middle East from 2010 to 2012. He has a degree in Business Administration and also sits on the Board of Directors of the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) and the American Chamber of Commerce in Bahrain.

"Technology is at the core of our business. Without technology, our business cannot run."

What would you say are the highlights of your operations as well as your growth strategy in the region?

American Express Middle East (AEME) is a joint-venture company. We are the issuer and acquirer of American Express Cards and merchants across the MENA region. American Express has been operating in the region since 1959, and in 1992 American Express Middle East was established as a joint-venture company owned by American Express and Mawarid Investment Limited. One of the most important highlights of our operations is that we have been successful in supplying reliable, effective, and rewarding solutions to consumers, corporate clients, and merchants across the region. All of our products and services are characterized by outstanding quality and service, and demonstrate our commitment to delivering positive and enriching experiences to our Cardmembers and partners. Our ability to do this is enhanced by our operation of a spend-centric model, which means our revenues are generated by the spending power of our Cardmembers and the business that we drive to merchants rather than lending and revolving receivables on credit cards. On the corporate side, we like to say we are a one-stop shop for businesses to manage their expenses, be they travel, entertainment, procurement, or other business expenses. We offer two key business products: The Business Travel Account (BTA) and the American Express® Corporate Card. Both of these products help businesses better manage their expenses, including travel and entertainment, by offering them greater transparency and control and ultimately delivering cost savings. With the Corporate Card, we also offer businesses a purchasing solution that helps them manage operating expenses such as payment of customs duties, utilities, and supply costs. I think another highlight of our operations is our ability to offer products and services that meet the demands of consumers. Today, consumers are becoming more demanding, and what they demand is value and rewarding experiences. For example, we offer true value with our rewards scheme, which is best in class. The American Express Membership Rewards® program is the leading rewards program in the UAE and across the Middle East. It is the only program that offers access to 12 major international airlines where customers can redeem their points against airlines tickets and upgrades. Points can also be redeemed for hotel stays, shopping, car rental, restaurants, and charities. Customers earn points for virtually every dollar they spend. These points build up and never expire, which is unique across the market. One of our key strengths is also the strong partnerships we have created with our merchants, which enable us to provide value-added exclusive offers not only in our region, but also globally for customers. For example, with the Selects„¢ program, our Cardmembers can access a range of regional and global offers. Meanwhile, merchants benefit from spending by our loyal Cardmembers. In addition, I think one of the highlights that underpins our business is service. Our business strives to provide personal recognition and tailored services to our Cardmembers, be it consumers, business customers, or merchants. Our commitment to providing outstanding service runs through our organizational culture and is innate to the values of our organization and our staff, too. This is something that other companies often do not have and is not easily replicable.

How would you differentiate the market in the UAE compared with the others you are experiencing?

The UAE has it all. It has a solid local customer base that spends on various everyday products, luxury goods, and experiences both locally and abroad, and also welcomes millions of visitors every year. It has become a well-respected and well-known destination for business, often serving as a hub for businesses as they open up their operations to serve the rest of the region. One of our objectives is to ensure we prioritize our investments in a selective manner to ensure we invest in markets and segments that deliver business growth, and in this sense the UAE is a key priority market for AEME. For example, one of the key trends that we see in the GCC region is that consumer spending on goods and experiences is growing, with the UAE spearheading this growth.

“Technology is at the core of our business. Without technology, our business cannot run.”

What is the importance of technology and innovation at AEME?

Technology is at the core of our business. Without technology, our business cannot run. Beyond technology is telecommunications and robust infrastructure. I am pleased to say that over the past few years we have invested significantly in our technology infrastructure with best-in-class technologies, be it hardware, software, or telecommunications. For example, we have undergone a significant investment in implementing a new technology platform for our business in the Middle East that brings all our products together on a single platform. What that allows us to do is to offer even better service to the customer as we have achieved an even more comprehensive view of them and how we can support them. I believe digital is also an important aspect of our business. One of our goals is to maximize the share of American Express card spend online and also improve the online customer experience. For example, to improve the customer experience, our website has been mobile-optimized and we have launched a Facebook page to interact with customers and communicate special offers. We have launched mobile applications, which enable customers to look up their card accounts, pay their bills, check their balances, and put in service requests. Ultimately, convenience is the name of the game. Customers are more demanding of the highest standards of service and digital is a key channel that helps maximize customer engagement and deliver our service promise.

What are you doing to strengthen your position from your point of view in terms of avoiding any possible mistakes in e-security?

We offer a number of services that are core to our business. First of all, we educate our customers on the importance of not divulging personal information, and not only their card numbers, but also their personal details, and to ensure their passwords are kept secure. In addition, we have in-house models and sophisticated tools to ensure we anticipate or predict whether a transaction is suspicious or not. Therefore, if we detect through our internal models a suspicious transaction, we actually either cancel that transaction or generate an alert and call the customer for verification. We are also investing in American Express SafeKey®, which adds another layer of security for online transactions by allowing the customer to register and enroll in the service and then for every transaction online, they receive a unique password that would verify that transaction should be processed. Last but not least, we work closely with law enforcement agencies and authorities on combating fraud.

In regard to the Experience UAE program, how do you structure your offers, and who have you partnered with to create this customer experience?

Experience UAE offers American Express Cardmembers visiting or living in the UAE access to hundreds of specially negotiated savings with leading names in travel, retail, dining, and leisure. One of the strengths of the program is the fact that we work with strong partners. These are very reliable, well-known partners that are willing to put exclusive offers on the table. American Express is a global brand, and that allows us to promote Experience UAE and its exclusive offers to American Express Cardmembers all over the globe. That is a key aspect of why Experience UAE has been important for us and very successful, too. In addition, the success of the Experience UAE campaign is driven by the 360-degree communication channels used, including a strong emphasis on digital, such as the development of a dedicated microsite which is compatible with mobile devices and includes useful visitor information as well as access to the offers.

© The Business Year – September 2014

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