Thomas O. Ryder is the latest high-level executive to be reshuffled at American Express Co., which in recent months has announced a number of staff changes.
Mr. Ryder, 50, was named president of International, American Express Travel Related Services Co. Previously, he managed American Express' relationships with merchants as president of establishment services worldwide.
Mr. Ryder replaced R. Craig Hoenshell, 51, who left American Express in June to pursue other interests, said a spokesman. Mr. Hoenshell, a 22-year veteran of the New York-based company, had been president for just two years.
"When you have this much change happening in a company, you will see some additional departures at senior levels," observed Susan L. Roth, an analyst with Bear, Stearns & Co.
Mr. Hoenshell's departure, for example, followed that of Roger H. Ballou, who was president of American Express Travel Related Services Co. in charge of corporate travel. Mr. Ballou joined Alamo Rent-a-Car Inc. in May as vice chairman and chief marketing officer.
Under Mr. Ryder's leadership, American Express wants to expand in key markets, broaden product offerings, increase merchant coverage, and continue to reengineer to improve service and lower operating costs, said Kenneth I. Chenault, vice chairman of American Express Co. to whom Mr. Ryder will report.
David House, 45, who worked closely with Mr. Ryder as senior vice president in charge of sales and marketing for the merchant services unit, succeeded Mr. Ryder.
Mr. Ryder joined American Express in 1984 as president and publisher of American Express Publishing Corp. He moved over to the card side of the company in 1992 to help boost the number of merchants that accept the American Express brand.
This year American Express stopped reporting the number of merchants it signs. Unlike Visa and MasterCard issuers, which go after volume, the company focuses on merchants that cater to its cardmembers.
Now, American Express reports that its cardmembers may charge 84% of their plastic spending on American Express. Before Mr. Ryder's direction of merchant relationships, cardmembers might have charged 70% to 75% of their card spending on American Express, said spokesman Marcos Rada.
Mr. Ryder is perceived within the company as "an agent of change," said Mr. Rada. Another spokesman, Frank Vaccaro cautioned that Mr. Ryder, however, would not be "leading a turnaround effort," in the international arena.
"Many of our international businesses are strong and growing rapidly," said Mr. Vaccaro. "I would not conclude that Mr. Ryder is coming in," to shake things up, he said.
Mr. Ryder was not available to comment.
Cardmember spending abroad increased 24% in the first six months of this year, compared with the same period last year, said Mr. Vacarro. By comparison, spending in 1994 was just 16% greater than the previous year.
"Merchant acceptance is American Express' biggest problem abroad," said Salomon Brothers analyst Thomas P. Facciola, "so it makes sense to put someone with (Mr. Ryder's) expertise in charge."
In his new role, Mr. Ryder will oversee the company's charge and credit card businesses in 160 countries.
He will focus on expanding American Express' family of products abroad, similar to what is happening in the U.S. market with the launch of several new credit card products marketed under the Optima brand.
American Express has penetrated only four markets abroad, Brazil, Japan, France, and the United Kingdom with credit cards. The company is testing credit in several other markets as well.