Signaling an effort to revitalize its international banking unit, American Express Co. has named John A. Ward, a senior executive at Chase Manhattan Corp., as chairman and chief executive at American Express Bank.
Mr. Ward's appointment follows the resignation of Steven D. Goldstein, announced six months ago, and comes after American Express put the bank up for sale last year but failed to find a buyer.
Established in 1919, the $13 billion-asset Connecticut-chartered bank is licensed to operate outside the United States. The bank ran into significant losses in the 1980s because of lending in developing countries. It has since been seeking to rationalize its operations and cut costs.
Under Mr. Goldstein's tenure, American Express Bank dropped out of corporate wholesale lending and refocused instead on private and correspondent banking, short-term trade finance and foreign exchange trading.
Mr. Ward, a 27-year veteran of Chase Manhattan, is the latest senior executive to leave that bank following Chase's merger with Chemical Banking Corp.
The two banks this month obtained Federal Reserve Board approval to form a $298 billion-asset bank, the largest in the United States.
Mr. Ward, 49, joined Chase in 1969 as a credit trainee and climbed the ranks to become executive vice president and chief executive of Chase Bankcard Services in 1993. He brings extensive international and domestic banking expertise across a broad range of activities, including lending and private banking.
"American Express is clearly trying to make a commitment to an operation that never really seemed to get off the ground," said Francis X. Suozzo, a banking analyst with S.G. Warburg & Co. "The bank has much too high a cost base for what it can deliver and is not especially profitable."
Salomon Brothers analyst Thomas Facciola agreed. "They're evidently trying to find a more profitable role for the bank which has mainly served as a utility for the company. Until now it hasn't been a very high priority."
He and others also speculated that the decision to hire Mr. Ward likely meant American Express will not soon put the banking unit up for sale again.
However, analysts said, the company might agree to sell the bank if it got a favorable offer.