WAY TO PAY

UAE, Dubai 2014 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mazin Khoury, CEO of American Express, Middle East & North Africa, on the role of technology and spending solutions.

Mazin Khoury
BIOGRAPHY
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.

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

American Express Middle East 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.

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 American Express Middle East. 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.

What is the importance of technology and innovation at American Express Middle East?

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. 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.

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.