W. Richard Holmes, the new head of global private banking at American Express Bank, is living up to his title - he just went around the world in 45 days.
Mr. Holmes, the former head of private banking at BankAmerica Corp., recently toured all 14 of American Express Bank Ltd.'s offices in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the United States.
His goal was to instill confidence in his private bankers, who were less than certain about American Express' commitment to them after it discussed selling the bank last year.
"We lost quite a few relationship managers because of the uncertainty with the bank, and I didn't want to lose any more," Mr. Holmes said.
During his tour, he said, he made a simple point to assuage any lingering concerns: "I didn't join this place to shut it down."
Rather, he said, he took the Amex job as a career move, "and I wanted them to know that."
Mr. Holmes took over the charge card giant's private bank in April. He said he was attracted by its dedication to the international market.
"We don't do U.S.," he said. The private bank's offices in New York and Miami serve foreign clients only.
In fact, this Englishman in New York said he's relieved not to be competing as a banker for American clients, who continue to flock to brokerages and investment banks for investment management services.
"It's not very sexy going to a cocktail party and saying 'so-and-so trust department manages my money,' as opposed to 'this investment banker,'" Mr. Holmes said.
Out to prove American Express' commitment to the private banking market, Mr. Holmes is changing the unit's management structure. Previously, the private bank operated like a confederation, with each office following its own game plan. Now there's a unified program under which all of the bank's far-flung locations can access all of the corporation's financial services.
American Express' new international television advertising campaign, "Do More," includes plugs for private banking in London and Hong Kong. In keeping with the theme, Mr. Holmes is setting up a business in which employees will cross-sell investment management, fiduciary services, treasury services, lending and card services.
The money management services available include a proprietary offshore mutual fund family, Worldfolio, and access to the parent's $130 billion money manager, American Express Financial Advisors.
Mr. Holmes views the Swiss banks and such U.S. banks as J.P. Morgan and Chase as the global private banking competition. American Express can be a contender, he said, noting that it has volumes of prospects from commercial bank clients, merchants, and card users. For instance, Amex has 8,000 platinum card holders in Mexico.
"I don't know of any other private bank in the world that has this kind of captive client base," Mr. Holmes said. "We've never told them what we can do to broaden the relationship."