Friday, December 15, 2023
HomeBank5 questions with … Amex Digital Labs’ VP and head of partnerships

5 questions with … Amex Digital Labs’ VP and head of partnerships

Stephanie Schultz, vice president and head of partnerships at Amex Digital Labs at American Express, is focused on building out digital client experiences as part of her innovation and product development strategy heading into 2024. 

Stephanie Schultz, vice president and head of partnerships at Amex Digital Labs at American Express

Throughout 2023, American Express prioritized technology spend, according to the card giant’s third-quarter earnings. Its expenses for the quarter increased 7% year over year to $11 billion, driven by higher technology and personnel-related costs.

As tech spend grew, American Express looked to increase product offerings in tune with client needs and new technological capabilities. For example, Amex explored uses for Web3, teamed up with Square and enhanced digital payment offerings. 

In an interview with Bank Automation News, Schultz discussed her development plans for 2024, the Digital Labs product strategy and her approach to leadership. What follows is an edited version of that conversation: 

Bank Automation News: What is your focus for product development and strategy for the remainder of 2023? 

Stephanie Schultz: As we move through 2023 and into 2024, I am focusing on finding ways to make American Express a more essential part of our customers’ digital lives. We’re dedicated to creating seamless digital payment solutions, elevating membership experiences and actively addressing the emerging needs of our customers.  

In today’s dynamic digital landscape, technology is advancing rapidly, and customer expectations continue to evolve. We adopt an ‘outside-in’ approach to guide our strategy and use new technology that solves meaningful problems for our customers to make their lives easier, not harder. 

My team specializes in developing innovative products and enhancing membership experiences through strategic collaborations with leading tech companies and startups. Our efforts are concentrated across six critical focus areas including digital payments, e-commerce, future of membership, artificial intelligence, Web3 and other emerging tech.

BAN: What is the AmEx Digital Labs product roadmap journey? 

SS: At Amex Digital Labs, our approach to new product development revolves around an inclusive and open forum designed to foster innovation and bring impactful ideas to life. We’ve established a platform where anyone on the team, regardless of their position, can pitch an idea “Shark Tank”-style to our leadership team.  

This democratized approach to idea generation has led to more high-quality innovation. We are constantly bringing new products to market, and this open forum acts as a tool to help team members iterate and improve on their ideas and obtain the necessary resources for progression from a viable business idea to a proof-of-concept, and eventually to a pilot phase, whether that’s with customers or internally across our Amex teams.  

Throughout this process, our card members’ needs remain at the center of our learning agenda. We meticulously assess at each stage, evaluating for product market fit and scalability to determine which pilots can evolve into full-fledged product launches.  

BAN: How do you determine what fintechs are the right fit for partnerships? 

SS: Our team partners with a wide range of companies from fintechs to big tech companies. When considering partnership opportunities, we try to identify distinct offerings that can complement or augment Amex’s existing capabilities within our strategic focus areas. 

Equally important is the alignment of core values and priorities. At Amex, our unwavering focus is around our customers. We prioritize partners who share our commitment to creating customer-centric products and are dedicated to delivering exceptional customer experiences consistently. 

By fostering partnerships that align not only in technological innovation but also in shared values and customer-centric approaches, we aim to create mutually beneficial collaborations that elevate the experiences of our card members.  

BAN: What emerging technologies do you have your eye on? 

SS: There are several emerging technologies I am keeping an eye on right now, but one that has particularly captured my attention is Web3. We’ve been actively exploring this space, notable during this year’s U.S. Open Tennis tournament, where we introduced our latest Member Collectibles experience.  

This experience allowed attendees to collect a total of three free, digital collectibles designed by illustrator Vero Escalante and issued in collaboration with POAP. This marked the first time card members were able to connect their NFT wallet of choice to their Amex account. This linkage enabled card members to unlock exclusive discounts with event sponsor La Roche-Posay, as well as transit and rideshare offers. 

Our journey with on-site digital collectibles started at Austin City Limits (Music Festival) in 2022 with collectibles designed by a local artist, Zuzu. We also had an NBA 2K activation in December 2022 which let fans and card members unlock the video game’s digital currency. Additionally, at the U.S. Open golf tournament this past June, we let fans use their digital collectibles to access a website selling custom merchandise from a Metalwood x Hypebeast collaboration.  

As we delve deeper into the realm of digital collectibles, we are excited about the potential of Web3 technology to evolve our loyalty and membership experiences.  

BAN: How would you describe your leadership style? 

SS: Throughout my career journey, I’ve aimed to lead authentically, emphasizing the human aspects that can sometimes get overlooked in a corporate environment. Being genuine and approachable has been fundamental in how I lead. I prioritize creating an environment where each team member feels comfortable coming to me with any challenge, ensuring they know they have my support, no matter what.  

Authentic leadership, to me, also means being adaptable. Rather than imposing my personal leadership style, I invest time in understanding each team member’s unique working style and how best to support them. This deep understanding has allowed me to tailor my guidance and coaching. I have figured out what they each need to be successful and how to motivate them individually. This personalized approach has also fostered a tight-knit culture amongst the Labs team, which has been instrumental in enhancing collaboration and driving better outcomes.  

Get ready for the Bank Automation Summit U.S. 2024 in Nashville on March 18-19! Discover the latest advancements in AI and automation in banking. Register now. 



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