NEW YORK(CNNMoney.com) — Seeking shelter amid a global credit crunch and consumer spending slowdown, American Express announced Monday it is becoming a bank.
The Federal Reserve, using emergency power to act swiftly, granted approval for AmEx and American Express Travel Related Services to become bank holding companies.
The move will give AmEx the ability to grow its deposits — a more stable form of funding — and provide it greater access to Fed funding and government rescue programs.
“Given the continued volatility in the financial markets, we want to be best positioned to take advantage of the various programs the federal government has introduced or may introduce to support U.S. financial institutions,” said Chief Executive Kenneth Chenault in a statement.
The company currently operates a small bank, American Express Centurion Bank, as well as a savings and loan, American Express Bank, which together have just over $50 billion in assets and $14.4 billion in deposits. They offer mainly credit cards, loans and certificates of deposit, the company said.
“We will continue to build a larger deposit base to broaden our funding sources,” said Chenault. “With Federal Reserve oversight we should gain greater access to the capital on offer under the current and any future government-sponsored programs.”