American Express Co Earnings Call Nuggets: Europe and Regulation

On Wednesday, American Express Co (NYSE:AXP) reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.


Brian Foran – Nomura Securities: It’s Brian Foran. I wonder if you could maybe just give n how things are evolving in Europe. Any color or thoughts you have on more recent customer behavior there? Are you still seeing the improvement you saw hold up or are you seeing things starting to weaken again?

Daniel T. Henry – EVP and CFO: So, in the first quarter, we had business growth that was kind of in the mid-single digits. What we’re seeing then is we had stronger growth in the northern part of Europe. We had somewhat solid growth in the southern part of Europe. The U.K. was performing more in line with what we saw in Northern Europe. Actually that trend has continued into the first quarter. So we had overall growth in Europe of 6%, strong euro in Northern Europe and the U.K., a little less in the south. So I would say the trend in the first quarter was very comparable to what we saw in the fourth quarter of last year, so some stabilization.

Brian Foran – Nomura Securities: I guess, I don’t know if it’s something you can comment on, but do all those comments carry through to April as well or where things evolved since then?

Daniel T. Henry – EVP and CFO: Yes, that’s only the last couple weeks, so we’re not going to comment on April at this time.

Brian Foran – Nomura Securities: Then the follow-up I had was a realized charge card performance is very strong in historical context, but just any more color on why loss rates are trending up over the past four quarters, anything you’re observing in the data?

Daniel T. Henry – EVP and CFO: So, the overall growth rate is 12. We actually have very similar growth rates in lending in charge. So we both are seeing very strong growth. The tick up that we saw up to 2.3% in the first quarter of this year, is really a pretty minor tick up and a 2.3% represents very low levels compared to what we’ve historically seen. We did noticed that and we took a close look at delinquencies and so delinquencies this quarter stand up 1.9% and that’s exactly the same delinquency rate that we had in the fourth quarter and very comparable to what we had last year. So, we don’t have a concern about where write-offs are. In fact, it is our expectation as we grow the business that we will expect to see some tick up over time in write-off rates both potentially in-charge and in lending but when that will happen will be depending on the growth from the business like customer behavior. So, bottom line is that tick-up is not a concern to me.


Unidentified Analyst – Citigroup: Moving on to the regulatory environment. I mean, clearly your fundamentals are great if you could just talk a little about maybe the CFPB and what kind of interaction you’ve had with them and what they might – where, if any, concerns you might have from the regulatory side?

Daniel T. Henry – EVP and CFO: We started to engage with the CFPB. They are, I think, on-site at this juncture. They are just starting their work, so I think it will be some time before we have findings from them or reports from them. The findings that the FDIC has had which we have disclosed in the 10-K they have shared those with the CFPB, we have not heard back from them on any reactions to that. There are new regulators. So, like everyone else we are going to have wait and see exactly what their observations are. So, we have started to engage with them. We have a number of new regulators where we’ve having the bank holding company. The Fed was the new regulator for us. We have worked very hard with the Fed to establish good relations. We think we’ve been successful at doing that. Our plan would be to do the same exact thing with the CFPB to be helpful to them and listen to any observations that they have.

Unidentified Analyst – Citigroup: Just real quickly it looks like there was a reclassification of card fees out of net interest income can you talk a little bit about that?

Daniel T. Henry – EVP and CFO: Sorry I was getting a little help there. So there was a card fees that we became a bank holding company we decided it should be included in the interest income. On further review we’ve decided that we should put it back into card fees. So this little change in revenues all the economics, all the bottom line is just a classification of what revenue line that it’s on.

Unidentified Analyst – Citigroup: What kind of fees were those?

Daniel T. Henry – EVP and CFO: It’s just the annual fee that we get on lending products and there was an interpretation of certain accounting rule that we thought would cause us to move – to split the card fee and put a promotion of in interest income so I have decided that that’s not where we should put it. So we have just re-classed it back. So its low economics, there’s no impact on total revenue line or on the bottom line and we restated the prior year.