American Express Co. is adding a McKinsey & Co. executive, George L. Farr, to its top rank of managers.

Mr. Farr, 54, currently a director of international consulting firm, will be responsible for American Express' travel services group, which comprises the corporate card, purchasing card, and business and consumer travel services. He will be a vice chairman at American Express.

In addition, he will be in charge of a new "virtual bank" business that has been under development for a year.

He will join American Express on May 1.

The announcement came about two months after the company restructured its senior ranks, adding Kenneth I. Chenault to chief executive Harvey Golub's inner circle. Mr. Farr will join this top group of executives, which includes Jeffrey E. Stifler, president, and Jonathan S. Linen, vice chairman.

As part of this latest reshuffling, Mr. Chenault, who oversees brand management and advertising, has added responsibility for American Express' Travel Related Services International division.

Formerly, Mr. Chenault headed up the travel services group.

Mr. Farr, a 27-year veteran of New York-based McKinsey, is also a former colleague of Mr. Golub, who worked for the firm about 12 years ago.

"Chuck is one of the most strategic thinkers I have ever worked with," said Mr. Golub. "He is a uniquely talented individual who will bring a new perspective to bear on the company's businesses."

Salomon Brothers analyst Thomas Facciola said he sees Mr. Farr's hiring as a sign that American Express is serious about launching a so-called "virtual bank."

The company has been vague about details of the types of products such a bank would offer, but a spokesman said that American Express plans to sell financial services, mostly investment products like mutual funds, directly to consumers.

While it will be another year or so before American Express has firm plans, the virtual bank would likely offer standard bank fare, such as checking accounts, credit cards, deposit products, and mortgages, said Mr. Facciola.

The analyst also said he believes American Express will price competitively because it would not have to support a branch system.

"Chuck has made a major contribution in attracting outstanding people to the company," said William Matassoni, a McKinsey partner. "He is very well regarded as both a creative and analytical person."

Before joining McKinsey, Mr. Farr worked for Procter & Gamble from 1964 to 1968. He has bachelor of arts and master of business administration degrees from the University of Michigan.

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