Friday, April 01, 2011

American Express serving for Payfone

American Express have made two moves that seems to signal an important strategic direction. During March, a new person to person payment offering was launched, called Serve. (Read here). Initial scrutiny of the product and comparison with Paypal does not create any excitement: very similar product to Paypal, just more expensive. The question is if the American Express brand will help sell this product.

The second announcement came during April, when American Express joined a third round investment in a company called Payfone (Read here). Other investors include BlackBerry Partners Fund and Verizon. My limited research into Payfone did not provide much insight in the offerings of Payfone, so it is difficult to comment on the relevance and the likelihood of synergy with Serve.

When studying the announcements, one can make the following observations:
1. The timing of the two announcements indicating that they form part of a bigger strategy
2. The big deviation from the existing business of America Express. The two products seem to have very little in common with the existing American Express payment solutions, nor create much synergies.
3. The clear US focus (Serve is only available in the US).
4. The recognition of the importance of mobile.

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