Payments giant American Express has announced a US$100 million digital commerce investment initiative, some of which will be used to help fund mobile payment growth. The firm yesterday said the money will be spent “on early stage startups in the digital commerce space” over a period of years, in an effort to “help identify and develop innovative technologies that will help accelerate the company's digital transformation and strengthen connections to a growing base of customers around the globe.” Specific details were not released.

American Express' digital commerce initiative will be managed out of the company's newly established office in Silicon Valley and led by Harshul Sanghi, who was recently appointed as Managing Partner, Enterprise Growth Group. Mr. Sanghi previously ran Motorola Mobility Ventures. As well as mobile and online payment management, other areas targeted for investment include loyalty and rewards, fee-based services, security and fraud detection and data analysis.

The plan is American Express' latest effort to transform beyond a company that mainly lends credit and charge cards and processes transactions to a major player in e-commerce and mobile payments, growing fields being targeted by companies including Google, Visa and MasterCard.

American Express’ Enterprise Growth Group has been integral in forging partnerships with companies like Verizon Wireless and Foursquare and developing services such as Serve, a competitor to eBay's PayPal service. American Express has announced deals with Sprint and Verizon Wireless to get its Serve software placed onto the carriers' smartphones. The lender was the lead investor alongside other companies this year in Payfone, a mobile payments company with which American Express is also working on digital commerce services. American Express is also a supporter of Google’s new NFC-based Wallet service.