Melissa Smith, became the president of Wex in May 2013 and took over the CEO job at the start of 2014. In these new roles, she is already spearheading a substantial expansion plan that includes the assimilation of Exxon's Esso Card.

That acquisition will add a fleet card network that includes nine countries in Europe, with added partnerships in the region that will boost Wex's reach to 13,000 locations in 18 countries.

At the same time, Wex is extending its reach into new payment types, pursuing health care via a partnership with Alegeus Technologies

Smith is responsible for guiding this expansion while also managing the fast pace of payments innovation. Improved data management techniques, for example, are enabling clients to immediately address problems that would have previously taken years to uncover, Smith says.

"Another interesting thing happening is the recognition that sophisticated payments platforms can be applied to a nearly infinite number of industries," Smith says. "For example, more than a decade ago we pioneered WEX Virtual, our electronic payments solution, for online travel agencies such as Expedia. Today, we are continuing to apply this expertise to create customized payments solutions for sectors with complex needs including healthcare and employee benefits."

Smith succeeded Michael Dubyak as CEO after and completing an eight-month transition. Prior to becoming president and CEO, Smith was president of the Americas and chief financial officer.

Smith held the CFO role during Wex's initial public offering in 2005. This event was a major influence on her career.

"Almost everything we did to take the company public required charting new territory and was of significant importance. There were a variety of stakeholders with conflicting needs. I found pulling a team together and getting the IPO done in a short period of time chaotic and energizing," she says.

Wex has also promoted a number of women to top jobs, Smith says.

"I’ve been very fortunate to work for an organization like Wex, where I’m surrounded by many talented women," she says, noting the newly formed Wex Executive Leadership Team is 50% female, and includes people with a variety of backgrounds and skills. "I would love to see more highly capable female representation on executive leadership teams more broadly in payments and other industries. There has been progress but simply not enough to be representative of the demographics."

See the full list of honorees for this year's Most Influential Women in Payments.

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