American Express Co. announced the appointment Monday of Richard K. Goeltz as vice chairman and chief financial officer.

Mr. Goeltz, 53, had been finance chief of Natwest Group in London since 1992. His oversight responsibilities included Mondex, the smart card venture that Natwest transferred last month to the newly incorporated Mondex International, with 17 bank owners.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Goeltz (pronounced "Geltz") said he had to choose between staying at a bank that has successfully "focused its resources in areas where it could be a winner," and moving to a company that holds "the world's most respected service brand."

He deemed the latter "irresistible," particularly in view of the "marvelous work (chairman) Harvey Golub did" in engineering American Express' turnaround the last few years.

Mr. Golub and "a first-rate senior team have defined their strategies, opportunities, and the challenges they face worldwide," Mr. Goeltz said. "American Express recognizes its competitors' strengths and can meet and beat them."

Effective Sept. 3, the day after he departs Natwest, Mr. Goeltz will join three other vice chairmen in Mr. Golub's office of the chief executive: Kenneth I. Chenault, George L. Farr, and Jonathan S. Linen.

In a letter to employees, Mr. Golub said he had broadened the responsibilities of chief financial officer since the resignation in April of Michael P. Monaco. Mr. Golub said he sought to "attract world-class candidates" and had many, both inside and outside American Express.

Citing Mr. Goeltz's "distinguished career in finance," which included senior jobs with Joseph E. Seagram & Sons and Exxon Corp., Mr. Golub said the new finance chief will go beyond financial-community liaison and internal advisory roles to "share responsibility ... for reviewing business-unit strategies, monitoring progress against those strategies, and resolving issues that cut across business units and staff groups."

Mr. Goeltz, an Illinois native, will be returning to New York business roots - in addition to working for Exxon and Seagram, he went to Columbia University's business school - and repeating a "cross-cultural" job-change pattern.

"I think moving from a New York-based, family-controlled firm (Seagram) to a London commercial bank demonstrated some mental and psychological flexibility," Mr. Goeltz said. "I think now I can make a contribution to Harvey and the rest of the management team - and that's a shorter road that it was from Seagram."

Mr. Golub said Mr. Goeltz as finance chief helped lead both Seagram and Natwest "through restructurings, technological innovation, acquisitions, divestitures, and intense competition. ... While he is new to our business, many of the issues he will be confronting are likely to be very familiar."

"He was great as a boss," said Natwest executive and Mondex inventor Tim Jones. "He was so very professional, experienced, and right on. I had 24- hour access to him and got 24-hour turnaround when decisions had to be made on very complex matters."

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