Bernie, tell us what is the current focus at Wright Express.
At Wright Express we are focused on helping our customers optimize their fleets and really their whole business. We continue to focus on and enhance our fleet card program and we have other specialized payment solutions. For example, we have single use electronic payments solutions, and our rapid! PayCard eliminates the need for employers to write checks. We also have programs like WEXSmart, which is a GPS telematics solution to help companies track their vehicles and employees. Another offering is Telapoint, which is a software program to help companies manage their bulk fueling.
What is your assessment of where things are going in the industry?
It is good to see an economic upturn, but it is slow and fragile at this point. Businesses are slow to bring back employees and they are still being asked to do more with fewer resources. Also, fleet managers want one company that can do more than just offer a fleet card and really supply a wide array of products and services that can help maximize their business. To address these needs, Wright Express is dedicated to finding the best ways to optimize fleets and offerings for their drivers and employees. Additionally, rising fuel costs have people concerned and markets are still very volatile, so the quality, timeliness and powerful data that Wright Express combines with a high level of service is paramount for our fleet customers.
Alternative fuels are a hot topic. Businesses are looking for ways to maximize their fueling options, and we are seeing some companies evaluate alternative fuels for their vehicles influenced in part by Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards. Wright Express has made a commitment that regardless of what type of fuel that our customers purchase they can count us to provide the same level of control, reporting and insight to help them manage their fleet. We have worked with folks on compressed natural gas (CNG) and electric vehicles, and we have partnerships with merchants now for acceptance.
Another example of how Wright Express is growing with the industry is the integration of fueling data with the telematics solution. For example, if you had a fuel transaction that occurred in St. Louis and the vehicle happened to be in Kansas City, a fleet manager needs to know about that. Why did that transaction occur somewhere that the vehicle wasn’t? Tools like these allow our fleet customer to better track vehicles and drivers, prevent misuse and save money.
Talk about the green and environmental solutions that you are offering.
Rapid! PayCard is one of our green initiatives to eliminate paper checks; a lot of companies are looking to electronically deposit funds to an employee. From a data collection standpoint, for all of the alternative fuels available, we are working with the PCATS (Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards) industry to make sure we have all the proper product codes to report data. It is very important to fleets that purchase alternative fuel to be able to accurately report the product codes. We have a lot of state and federal governments that are using our services and they need to be able to prove that they are taking advantage of alternative fuels. This is partly due to mandates by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) requiring all new federal vehicle purchases to be alternative-fueled vehicles by 2015, and ultimately reduce the country’s dependence on oil.
Tell us about your new pump shut-off program.
Our pump shut-off offering is something that we have had in development for quite some time. It has recently been released and we are already getting great feedback. Fleets wanted to have a way to control individual access, either at the transaction level or during the course of a day, but they also realize they need to put responsibility at the driver level. Fraud and misuse typically tends to increase as the price goes up. With pump shut-off, fleets are now able to set a limit. For example, a fleet manager can set a limit of $50.00 per transaction. When an employee goes to fuel their vehicle, and the pump hits $50.00, the pump will close for that individual transaction. The limit can also be set per day – so you could have a $100.00 limit per day, for example. Fueling transactions will go through until that final transaction crosses over the $100.00 mark where it will again stop there. It provides additional security for the fleet manager to know they have set that limit on fueling, and helps to reduce overage.
In your opinion, what is hot in the industry right now?
In addition to alternative fuels, another hot topic is mobile technology. This is really a function of how to drive productivity by delivering bite-size amounts of actionable information, such as alerts on vehicle location and the lowest price fuel in an area. Everybody is trying to exercise control and change driver behavior, so we give drivers’ the tools at their fingertips that can help them make good decisions.
For example, we recently launched a new mobile app, Octane that helps drivers identify the cheapest gas in the area, and alternative fuel options. Octane taps into Wright Express’s vast computer data sets, using up-to-date transaction-based fuel prices. It also uses text-to-speech technology for hands-free operation so the user can focus on driving while listening to audio directions to their selected gas station. We understand fleets need drivers to arrive at fuel sites safely and as quickly as possible, and they are also looking for ways to save money by better managing fuel costs and consumption. Octane is the first of its kind and designed to meet these needs, underscoring our commitment to providing customers with the best possible fleet management tools.
What is coming next?
I think the push to mobile devices and social media to make sure that information is quick, accurate and timely will continue to be an important topic for the industry. People want to make decisions quicker and ensure they have the right information to manage their business. A fleet manager can’t scour through thousands and thousands of transactions a day so they need to focus on the things that are important. The timely, accurate information that we can give to customers and our ability to push that down to a device is key for a fleet or division manager.
Bernie joined Wright Express in 1996 as a District Sales Manager and his career has been a steady progression of increased sales and marketing responsibility between existing and new segments of the Fleet and MasterCard business. In 2008, Bernie was named Vice President of Corporate Payment Solutions. In this role he is responsible for overseeing the retention and growth of all mid-to large size customer relationships in both the Fleet and MasterCard lines of business. He also has responsibility for the Partner relationships, helping the Fleet Management companies grow their business and oversees the acquisition and growth of the Government line of business. Prior to joining Wright Express, Bernie held a number of roles with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Enterprise Leasing.
Bernie earned a B.S. in Political Science with a minor in Business Administration from the College of New Jersey in Ewing, NJ. He is an active member of NAFA, AFLA, NCSFA, NAPCP and is a frequent speaker at payment industry conferences focusing on fuel trends and technology in the payment space. As an industry expert, Bernie is regularly called upon by business organizations to comment on market news.