American Express Co. (AXP - Get Report)  CEO Kenneth Chenault, who earned investor Warren Buffett's admiration for steering the lender through the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 2008 financial crisis, is stepping down after 16 years in charge.

Chenault, 66, who also serves as board chairman, will be succeeded by Vice Chairman Steve Squeri on Feb. 18, the New York-based firm said in a statement on Wednesday, Oct. 18. Squeri, who oversees operations including technology as head of the global customer services group, has worked at American Express since he took a management position in the traveler's checks business in 1985.

Chenault "groomed an outstanding successor," lead independent director Robert Walter said in the statement. "We've had a very thorough succession process under way for five-plus years that involved every member of the board, and we are unanimous in our decision that Steve's the best person to build on the progress under way at American Express."

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