News Updates

Amex’s sales shake-up

July 7, 2023
The weekend is here! Fun-fact Friday: The smell of fresh-cut grass is actually pheromones that plants release when under attack, per Science Illustrated.


Our big story today focuses on the potential root cause of a shake-up within American Express’ sales division.


In today’s edition:

But first, we’ve got a sales call.
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Death of a salesman

Robyn Phelps/Insider


What’s the future of salespeople in corporate America? A shake-up at American Express provides some interesting clues.

The credit-card giant reorganized its small-business sales division last year, cutting some 150 salespeople and reassigning another 100 to new roles that included a new compensation structure.

From Amex’s perspective, the move was part of its regular overview of how it serves its clients. But some of those affected say they were blindsided and are being scapegoated for a series of investigations into Amex’s sales practices, Insider’s Dakin Campbell reports.

The situation at Amex might sound familiar to anyone who has followed the issues that have plagued Wells Fargo over the years. It also raises questions about the role of salespeople within an organization and the freedom they have to operate as long as they keep bringing in revenue.

At Amex, the core of the issue is a product whereby small-business owners could use business income to pay employee expenses, collecting personal credit-card rewards points in the process. Some salespeople pitched it as a tax product, suggesting customers could write off the fee Amex charged as a business expense.

Amex has sought to portray those efforts as the work of rogue salespeople acting out of line. Former salespeople, meanwhile, suggest that’s how they were trained to sell the product.

Regardless of whose side you’re on, it’s easy to see how corporations might look to tighten the reins on its salespeople. There will always be a need for people to sell your stuff — although, ChatGPT isn’t far behind — but the days of giving them complete freedom might be behind us.


MediaMath, Zuckerberg, & Airbnb

MediaMath CEO Neil Nguyen. Chelsea Jia Feng/Insider
  • The last days of the adtech pioneer MediaMath. The company seemed to be stabilizing after surviving a pandemic rough patch. But MediaMath crumbled when its CEO was given a shocking notice: Sell the company in less than three months, or find new investors. Through court filings and interviews with more than a dozen insiders, Lara O’Reilly pieced together the final days before MediaMath’s collapse.
  • Private-equity-owned Home Partners sold them a dream of home ownership. Some got evicted instead. The rent-to-own company Home Partners attracted private-equity investment as far back as 2014. Then Blackstone Group bought the company for $6 billion in 2021 with a promise to make homeownership a reality for those locked out of traditional mortgages. In a new Insider investigation, tenants said they felt set up to fail.
  • Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want his kids’ faces on the app he owns. Instagram commenters accused the CEO of hypocrisy for censoring his children’s faces with emojis. “Even Zuck doesn’t trust his platforms to put his kids faces up,” one popular comment said.
  • Leaked audio: Amazon Web Services CEO says his biggest worry is “ourselves.” During an internal staff meeting, Adam Selipsky was asked about the biggest challenges facing AWS for the next few years. According to a meeting transcript obtained by Insider’s Eugene Kim, he stressed the importance of maintaining the company’s culture and priorities.
  • Airbnb wants to use AI to match people with their perfect home. CEO Brian Chesky wants to transform the company with AI. He shared the vision of Airbnb acting like the “ultimate AI concierge,” including recommending places, communities, homes, experiences, and more.
  • Elon Musk’s lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter to Mark Zuckerberg over the launch of Threads. In the letter, Musk’s lawyer suggested Meta hired ex-Twitter staff and used “Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property” to create the app.
  • Microsoft’s VP of HR: Your boss is your most important ally at work. Chris Williams revealed how to win over bosses — and it’s not by sucking up. He says being visible, useful, and supportive are much better methods.

Mortgage rates, Citadel, & Bridgewater

  • Mortgage rates jumped to an 8-month high. The rise Thursday came after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell predicted that inflation would remain above 2% until at least 2025, meaning the Fed would probably have to keep its benchmark rate higher for longer.
  • Here’s how Citadel rebuilt a key piece of Ken Griffin’s massive hedge fund. Reference data, or how a firm identities different securities when making a trade, isn’t the sexiest part of Wall Street but is critical to how a firm operates. Citadel’s rebuild of their system will allow one of the Street’s top hedge funds to move faster into new asset classes.
  • ChatGPT passed a key test Bridgewater Associates gives its junior employees. The generative-AI tool scored in the 80th percentile on a test the world’s largest hedge fund gives its investment associates, Greg Jensen, Bridgewater’s cochief investment officer, said on a recent podcast. Now the firm is experimenting with using machine learning in its trading strategies, Jensen added.

Wine thief, Trader Joe’s, & financially secure

  • A wine thief who’d make Danny Ocean proud. Footage shows they dropped through a wine store’s roof by rope; the store owner says they nabbed $600,000 worth of alcohol.
  • Dietician shares her 12 favorite Trader Joe’s items. Essentials like mirepoix, spinach tortellini, and blueberry waffles help Christine Craven make quick, easy meals.
  • Americans say they need to make $233,000 to feel financially secure. In the same survey, they said they’d need to make $483,000 to feel rich.

Own a piece of history

Courtesy of Patrick Conway and The Conway Team

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