American Express Co.’s (AXP) dabbling in the business of personal loans is getting approval from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) analysts, who expect it to generate a windfall of earnings growth in the next few years.
AmEx CEO Ken Chenault addressed the personal loan business, which he said has been generating significant questions, at the company’s investor day March 8. He said that while AmEx is new to personal lending, executives are “very comfortable” with the move because it caters to existing card customers.
Goldman Sachs Group (GS), Discover Financial Services (DFS) and Barclays PLC (BCS) have also recently taken a foray into offering personal loans, albeit in slightly different ways. For example, Barclays is offering personal loans only to select cardholders that it invites to the product. While AmEx is also offering personal loans to cardholders, it is adding the caveat that the loans must not be used to pay off an AmEx credit card. In contrast, Goldman, which caters to wealthier clients who have very little debt, did not have to worry that personal loans would impact their other lending platforms.
In 2016, banks originated $133 billion in personal loans in the U.S., about double what they lent in 2010, according to Experian.
It’s that positioning – AmEx being at the foot of a booming trend – that led JPMorgan to recently reiterate its Overweight rating on AXP. JPMorgan analyst Richard Shane noted that American Express has a "positive outlook as the company appears to be on the path to revenue and earnings growth.”
"We believe that management has established realistic objectives … that should be the foundation for enhanced shareholder value and future price appreciation,” Shane wrote, according to CNBC. (See also: How American Express Makes its Money.)
Also at the conference, American Express said it will crack down on consumers who are taking advantage of the company’s sign-on bonuses for credit cards. Doug Buckminster, president of consumer services, said American Express is using analytics to identity card hoppers who are gaming the system. (See also: American Express Stock to Rally 29 percent: Oppenheimer.)
AXP is up 7.0 percent year to date, and up 34.9 percent the past year.