Amex CEO says most employees will work remotely for the year

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American Express Co. Chief Executive Steve Squeri said a majority of the company’s employees will work remotely through the end of this year as it seeks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

While the New York-based credit card issuer wants to be prepared to have half of normal staffing at most locations by the end of the year, Squeri doesn’t expect it “to get anywhere near the 50% mark by the end of 2020,” he told employees in a video message Monday.

“We’ll be limiting the number of people in elevators and scheduling times for arrivals and departures,” Squeri said in the video. “And facial coverings will be required when you’re entering and moving about the building.”

Amex’s 64,500 employees are spread out across offices around the world, but its headquarters are in Manhattan, the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic. The firm also has offices in Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Sunrise, Fla., according to regulatory filings.

The company’s work environment will be completely different from the one employees left earlier this year, as COVID-19 cases swelled in the U.S. and sparked widespread shelter-in-place orders across the country, Squeri said.

“If you can work from home and you do not want to come in, you do not have to come in,” he said. “In fact, if you can work from home effectively, you should plan on doing so for the rest of the year.”

Amex will have procedures for seating that ensure employees aren’t clustered together, Squeri said in the message to employees. The firm won’t allow meetings in conference rooms and no visitors or contractors will be allowed in the building.

Employees won’t be allowed to sit in the cafeteria, with food instead being delivered to individual floors. Amex also is optimizing its air-conditioning systems and enhancing its cleaning protocols. Hand sanitizer will be readily available.

“The key here is that returning to the office will not happen all at once,” Squeri said. “We will open buildings on a location-by-location, floor-by-floor and colleague-by-colleague basis, as each location and floor is different.”

Amex, long known for its premium credit cards that offer perks for dining and travel, has adjusted its offerings for the pandemic. The firm’s $550-a-year Platinum card now offers as much as $320 in statement credits for spending on select streaming and wireless telephone services.

The company has vowed it won’t eliminate jobs this year as a result of the pandemic. Still, it plans to reduce discretionary expenses by $3 billion, one of the largest cost-cutting initiatives in its history.

“We have done a great job of exiting our facilities and running the company virtually,” Squeri said in the video. “We’re more agile, flexible and less bureaucratic. It’s been inspiring to see, and I want to keep it that way.”

Bloomberg News