Amex tests direct bank

The charge card giant wants to expand its brand, which may see it challenging high-street banks

American Express is testing a direct banking service in Germany and will launch a similar scheme in the UK if it proves successful.

Amex says it will evaluate the results of the German programme before deciding on a UK launch. If it goes ahead it will be taking on established names such as First Direct and the high street banking services.

The move is part of the charge card giant’s plan to become a multi-product business, offering its customers products and services suitable to their lifestyles.

Earlier this year, Amex test launched a mobile phones service, offering customers Motorola phones connected to the Cellnet network.

In the summer, Amex started a strategic review of its brand to learn how its characteristics could be stretched to cover other products.

“We want to know how we can reposition our brand so we are not just seen as being about charge cards,” says Amex head of brand management Russ Shaw.

Sources suggest that well-known Amex qualities such as status and reliability could be stretched to include a range of travel products, or even private health plans.

Amex is the latest financial services company to signal a move into direct banking. Last month Prudential unveiled plans for a 70m drive into the sector (MW October 27).

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