Ed Jay, who joined American Express Co. this month to head its newly formed business analytics unit, has unveiled more details about the venture.

The Business Insights unit is to supply merchants and other companies with sales-boosting information from its extensive database of cardholder-spending behavior.

"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," Jay, the senior vice president in charge of the unit, said in an interview this week.

Amex announced last month that it had created the unit, which is part of its global merchant services operations.

"The immediate focus is to expand our existing business with our merchant base, but [in the] longer term we see opportunities outside that base, such as the investment market," Jay said. Studying Amex cardholder spending patterns should help companies "see where there are signs of life in the economy and where they should invest their [marketing] dollars."

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