Caroline Gaye (CEO of American Express France): “The new Centurion is much more than a card, it’s a lifestyle”

Precise and fair in her words, a smile on her lips with a bright look, Caroline Gaye, French General Manager at American Express, introduces us to the new Centurion card. Employed by American Express since 2000, rising from manager to vice president of marketing and general manager in 2015, she relaunched “Centurion” in September 2021 with the Centurion Living Program. This card, reinvented by American Express, offers a unique design and new experiences based on emotion. A true journey based on the 5 senses! Demonstration with Katya Pellegrino.

Can you tell us briefly about your past?

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Rueil Malmaison 2012 Caroline GAYE – © American Express

Caroline Gay: I was born and raised in Paris. I also started my studies in mathematics and economics at Paris Dauphine University, then joined EDHEC.

With a father who studied in the United States, it certainly influenced me to start my career abroad, in Dublin and later in London at Sopexa in the food industry.

So I decided to go back to France. Among the headhunters who contacted me, one offered me a position focused on finance, a sector in which I had no experience. It was American Express.

I accepted the challenge and joined the company in 2000, where I held several positions within our Cards and Services for Individuals business. In 2008, I was appointed Vice-President of this activity and, in 2012, Vice-President of Cards and Services for VSEs-SMEs.

To go back to American Express history?

American Express has been around for a long time! The company was founded in 1850 at the time of stagecoaches (Farwest) for the transport of goods and after people. With two criteria: trust and security.

The customer has always been the backbone of our company, with their satisfaction being our main objective.

In 1891, the company created the traveler’s check for Americans who were traveling and were afraid of having their money stolen.

So the first office outside the United States was created in Paris in 1895, rue Scribe next to the Opéra Garnier. At that time, customers who did not know the capital asked questions to know where to have dinner, what to do during their stay. This is how this notion of service and our expertise in travel, gastronomy, culture, etc., were born, which today are at the heart of our offerings, even though we are a financial services company.

Can you tell us more about the Centurion Card and its benefits?

Centurion Carte – Rem Koolhaas – © American Express

It is a card that was released in 1999 in the US and in 2005 in France and is obtainable by invitation only. Our Platinum customers are also eligible for Centurion.

There is a lot of word of mouth, with our Centurion customers being the best ambassadors for the card.

We are available to customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with an internal concierge service, present throughout the world. In France, 100 concierges serve customers daily.

As part of our program dinner collectionCenturion members are guaranteed a table at the 100 most popular restaurants in France for the same night.

For travel, Centurion members benefit from a personalized welcome at Aéroports de Paris, Fast Track and free and unlimited access to the most prestigious airport lounges around the world. We also have our own salons: the Centurion salons.

Where are your own salons?

In Delhi, Bombay, Buenos Aires, Denver, Los Angeles, London, Stockholm, Hong Kong… In our Centurion lounges, gastronomy has an important place. For example, the one located at London’s Heathrow airport offers a decidedly contemporary menu, signed by star chef Assaf Granit (Balagan restaurant in Paris and Coal Office in London).

What are the differences between your Centurion card and others of the same level, like Infinite for example?

Launch Party – Centurion – © American Express

Each year members are therefore invited to live a year of experiences around the world.

The Centurion Card has no equivalent.

First of all, its design is unique: made of metal, we summoned two of the greatest artists of our time, Rem Koolhaas and Kehinde Wiley, to envision the new Centurion Card.

So, and I mentioned this before, the quality of service, access to superior travel experiences, personalized support by a dedicated Concierge team, … are beyond measure.

Finally, the Centurion universe. The new Centurion is more than a map, it’s a way of life. With the creation of the Centurion Living program, we offer our Members the discovery of life from new perspectives and personal enrichment.

In which countries can the Centurion card currently be found?

You find: in the United States, Canada, European countries (UK, France, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, etc.), Hong Kong, Middle East, Australia, India, etc.

Tell me about the Centurion Living Program?

Centurion Carte – Kehinde Wiley – © American Express

Centurion Carte – Rem Koolhaas – © American Express

In 2021, we decided to relaunch the Centurion card and redesign it, calling on two of the greatest creators of our time, the artist the artist Kehinde Wiley and the architect Rem Koolhaasthus creating an “Art Card”.

The idea, “reinvent it” offering our customers an international program of experiences based on emotion, the exception, in a “unique” word, creating and redesigning a new art of living, an invitation to discover other aspects Art, Gastronomy, Culture, Travel and Hospitality…

A journey of the 5 senses in short!

Each year members are therefore invited to live a year of experiences around the world.

What are the axes on which you created the Centurion Living Program?

Launched in September 2021, the Centurion Living Program is therefore based on two pillars: experiences and encounters.

The Experiences pillar invites Centurion Members to bring their tastes and passions to life by having access to the greatest artists of our time. In 2022, you will be able to discover and watch exclusive performances by Yo-Yo Ma, Alicia Keys or Dianne Reeves, all over the world.

The 2nd pillar, called “Introductions”, is especially intended for our Associates who, due to lack of time, have never been able to venture into exploring new artistic universes and cultural horizons.

To give a few examples, we offer them an introduction to Japanese ceremonies, contemporary Chinese art, or great vintages with Arvid Rosengren (best sommelier in the world) and much more.

How many events do you organize per year?

Centurion Launch Party – © American Express

At least 1 per month.

You have launched the connected wristband for payments. Doesn’t it look like a gadget? Do customers use?

We wanted to launch this bracelet, which in our view is an innovation that combines technology thanks to contactless payment and luxury for its Saffiano leather strap, signed Prada.

Men use it without worry and are delighted with this novelty.

It is true that for women, this black leather bracelet could be refused in other colors (smile). To have !

What are the most unusual or amazing orders made for your Centurion customers?

We have received many amazing requests and it is our role to fulfill them. I have in mind a client who asked us to organize his birthday in Venice for 50 people.

To do this, he wanted to organize, two months in advance, a private rehearsal of all the performances (with concert, dinner, evening, etc.).

In the end, he will have celebrated his birthday twice (smile)

Would you say that American Express is also reinventing itself?

Centurion Launch Party – Cédric Grolet – © American Express

I would say that American Express keeps abreast of the latest technological developments and innovations or emerging start-ups to reinforce its offer and its quality of service.

As proof, we recently acquired two start-ups (2019) in the world of gastronomy: Rezi in the United States and Pocket Concierge in Japan, … which are two online table booking platforms for adults. scene.

In what areas do you still want to develop?

Our goal is to continue to provide the best service and experiences to our customers. Gastronomy, art, culture, music, theater, etc. are areas of strong development.

We also want to strengthen our collaborations with artists.

How do you see the evolution of the Centurion card over the next 10 years?

Centurion is and will continue to be our most prestigious product, with exceptional quality of service and access to unique and exclusive experiences. Our challenge is, therefore, to consolidate our presence in areas such as Gastronomy, for example, and to strengthen it in some sectors where we are less present, such as sports. We are proud to have renewed our partnership with Paris Saint-Germain. We operate the Conciergerie Parc des Princes and our Centurion members have access to exclusive benefits such as meeting players.

What are your projects?

We have many projects. Soon we will be launching our new gastronomic program with great news. We will also relaunch our Blue Card, with a strong emphasis on generosity and cashback. We are also increasing the value of our cards for professionals, especially small and medium-sized businesses. Finally, we will continue to support local merchants as part of the Shop Small campaign.

What is your definition of luxury?

Authenticity. For example Hermès, which has a culture of tradition and rarity.

What is your height of luxury?

Travel the world, taking the time to discover the traditions and culture of the countries visited.

The luxury you couldn’t live without?

To be able to decide at the last moment!

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