American Express (Swiss: AXP-USD.SW - news) announced Wednesday that longtime chief executive Kenneth Chenault will retire in February, as it transitions to new leadership amid profound technology upheaval in shopping and payment systems.
Chenault, one of the most prominent African American executives in the US, will be replaced by Stephen Squeri, who worked as a group president for AmEx' corporate services group before becoming vice chairman in 2015.
"We've had a very thorough succession process underway for five-plus years that involved every member of the board and we are unanimous in our decision that Steve's the best person to build on the progress under way at American Express," Robert Walter, lead director on the AmEx board, said in a news release.
The transition was touted by AmEx' biggest shareholder, Warren Buffett, who called Chenault "the gold standard for corporate leadership" and praised Squeri as "the right person for the job."
Chenault is credited with building up AmEx' customer loyalty programs, as the credit card company's revenues grew to more than $32 billion last year from under $1 billion in 2001 -- the year he was tapped as CEO.
The move came as AmEx reported third-quarter earnings of $1.3 billion, up 19 percent from the year-ago period, as it cited strong revenue growth in key consumer segments.
But it has faced criticism from some analysts over its efforts to reposition itself to shifting consumer tastes and better differentiate its offerings in the mobile technology era.
AmEx shares rose 0.4 percent in after-hours trading to $92.41.