American Express to Invest $100 Million in Digital Commerce

American Express Co., the biggest credit-card issuer by purchases, plans to invest $100 million in technology companies as it develops its digital-payments system called Serve.

AmEx will make mostly minority investments in “early stage startups” developing mobile-payments products, the New York-based company said today in a statement. It didn’t name any target companies.

American Express is seeking a bigger foothold in the growing market for Internet commerce and payments over wireless devices, competing with Visa Inc., Google Inc. and EBay Inc.’s PayPal. Payments made with mobile phones alone will reach $670 billion globally by 2015, up from $240 billion this year, according to consultant Juniper Research.

“We know that we can’t do this alone,” Dan Schulman, who’s leading the initiative as the president of enterprise growth at AmEx, said yesterday in an interview. “The ability to identify the right technologies and the ability to partner with emerging technology companies is going to be crucial.”

AmEx has announced deals this year to integrate its Serve system into Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. devices. Schulman joined AmEx last year from Sprint Nextel.

“Commerce itself is going to be redefined,” Schulman said. “Everything now is going to be digitized along that commerce lifecycle, whether you’re searching for information on your smartphone, your desktop or in a retail store.”

Schulman has boosted AmEx’s investment in mobile-services company Rearden Commerce and spent $30 million to purchase Sometrics, an online-payments platform. AmEx made an undisclosed investment in Payfone Inc., a mobile-payments processor, in April.

Harshul Sanghi, hired from Motorola Mobility Ventures, will manage the planned investments out of an office in Northern California’s Silicon Valley slated to open before the end of this year, AmEx said today.

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