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."


The problem wasn't so much about raising funds as it was about finding the right terms. Henry says the company is on course to borrow $36 billion in 2008 to fund maturing debt and growth. While one- to five-year debt is less plentiful, unsecured loans, securitization and commercial paper are available. But with swap spreads remaining high, debt doesn't come cheap, he adds.


Henry has always kept a close eye on the numbers–especially American Express' numbers. Before joining the corporation in 1990 as comptroller, Henry was a partner at Ernst & Young, American Express' independent auditor at the time. Most recently, he was executive vice president of the largest unit of American Express, the U.S. consumer, small business and merchant services group. The combination of financial and operating experience will serve him well as CFO.

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