The Mastermind Behind Chase’s Industry-Changing Sapphire Reserve Card Sets Her Sights on Banking

3. January 2018.

Pam Codispoti had a dilemma. She’d been brought on by JPMorgan Chase & Co. to develop a credit card for affluent millennials in 2014—a time when no one thought the group wanted credit cards.

“We found that just not to be true,” says Codispoti, who was president of Chase’s branded cards unit. “What they were looking for was something different than what the market had to offer at the time. They weren’t interested in their father’s credit card.” So the 52-year-old executive and her team embarked on a listening tour in living rooms and coffee shops across America to find out what millennials wanted out of a premium card. The answer? Something that offered flexible rewards for the categories they cared about: dining and travel.

Chase’s response was the Sapphire Reserve. The $450-a-year card came with a sign-up bonus of 100,000 reward points and allowed holders to use them at a wide variety of hotels, airlines, restaurants, and more. Holders were also rewarded extra for spending in those categories, and even given a $300 annual travel credit. It was an instant hit with the target audience, who gobbled it up so quickly that JPMorgan ran out of the metal used to mint it.

“That these credits could be applied to stuff like Uber—no one had a product like that,” says Sanjay Sakhrani, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. “It forced others to change how they were thinking about the product and who they were addressing.” The card kicked off an arms race in the space, with American Express Co., Citigroup Inc., and others scrambling to offer improved rewards. AmEx executives later lamented that the offer was a “full frontal assault” on its Platinum card, and noted a temporary increase in attrition.

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