Melissa Smith's plans for her first year as Wex's CEO sound a bit like trip around the world, with payment projects in locations as varied as Brazil, Thailand, Canada and Europe.

"We're expanding both our fleet and travel business internationally," says Smith, who officially became CEO at the beginning of the year following a transition period that began in the first half of 2013.

Smith inherits initiatives such as an expansion of Wex's travel payments program and its push to operate a closed loop fleet payment program in Europe.

Wex's travel business—which works with travel agencies to create single use accounts for booking, reconciliation, integration with corporate systems and customized controls—recently expand in Australia, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand and parts of Southeast Asia. Its services are also available in the U.S. and Europe.

In the next year, Wex expects to add more countries and extend its local currency service to new markets, Smith says. This will enable people to make payments in their own currencies as they travel the world.

"While we're doing business on a global basis, we're enhancing our ability to provide features that work locally," Smith says.

At the same time, Wex is preparing to operate a fleet card business in Europe. Wex has long offered fleet card payments for businesses in the U.S., and it fueling its expansion with the purchase of ExxonMobil's European commercial fleet card program, called Esso.

"It's a unique transaction in that Exxon has asked for not just an outsourcer, but a company that will grow the marketplace," Smith says.

Wex is preparing to oversee the operations, funding, pricing, sales and marketing for the Esso Card, including supply arrangements with Esso affiliates and merchant acceptance. The network handles 1 million cards accepted at 6,000 stations in nine countries.

"It will take about a year to allow us to leverage our European footprint," Smith says. In that time, Wex will develop strategies to manage differences in fleet card payments in the U.S. and Europe, such as EMV-chip card acceptance, fuel tax structures and other fees.

"The taxes are a bit more complex in Europe as you move across countries and have to process and claim taxes," Smith says.

Wex also expects to add other services to the fleet cards. "We can enable toll payments, for example, as part of a broader product set," Smith says.

On Jan. 7, Wex finalized a deal with Caltex Australia to extend acceptance of Wright Express fuel cards to all Caltex franchise and reseller locations. Wex is also expanding its fleet card business in Brazil.

The company can also apply analytics to inform its strategy in other countries. By collecting and analyzing trends from fuel card use, Wex can tailor its strategy in each market, Smith says.

"We found that in Brazil they were particularly concerned about fraud. That's a big deal in most markets, but for them it ranks higher and it's an area they want to focus on," Smith says. "The more data elements you can collect, the more you can help without overloading someone with more information."

While she is new to the CEO role, Smith can draw in her extensive experience with Wex, where she worked for over 16 years before beginning her seven-month transition to CEO. During the transition period, she worked with the company's previous CEO, Michael Dubyak.

Because of this, "when I became CEO it didn't seem like a big leap to make," she says. "Our board was very thoughtful in succession planning, and I can see that far more now."

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