American Express Co. has launched a business unit to provide merchants and other companies globally with analytics and consulting using its vast database of cardholder-spending behavior. American Express Business Insights, which will be part of AmEx's Global Merchant Services unit and be based in New York, is targeting its merchant customers and others that may find value in knowing how and where AmEx cardholders spend. The unit will help clients identify such strategic opportunities as target marketing and customer acquisition from aggregate spending patterns drawn from AmEx's roughly 90 million cards across 127 world markets, the company says. "A lot of the focus is on improving the value of what we deliver to our merchants to help them perform better in their businesses," Ed Jay, Business Insights senior vice president, tells CardLine. "The immediate focus is to expand our existing business with our merchant base, but longer term we see opportunities outside that base such as the investment market." By studying AmEx cardholder spending patterns, companies can "see where there are signs of life in the economy and where they should invest their [marketing] dollars, says Jay. One analyst says AmEx is smart to expand its revenue base by offering services related to its transaction-data expertise. "It's relatively conservative, but its' an effective manner for AmEx to grow revenue," says Megan Bramlette, managing associate at Auriemma Consulting Group of Westbury, N.Y. "It's a great idea, and it will be interesting to see what kind of traction they get in the market, especially because they have such an international reach."