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October of 2007 was a challenging time to take the CFO mantle at American Express Co. The credit crisis was proving more tenacious than many experts predicted, and financial services companies were taking a hit. “Clearly, the economy was facing some fairly strong headwinds,” says American Express finance chief and executive vice president Daniel Henry. “And we still don’t know if the slowdown will be short and shallow or long and deep.” Nonetheless, Henry remains calm. Seven months as acting CFO had prepared him for potential turbulence. What’s more, he says, flexible corporate business models enable American Express to weather a storm. “I told my team not to fret about the economy, but to focus on things that we can control.” Most important, he says, was adopting a “thoughtful funding approach.”

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