Visa veteran joins FleetCor’s Comdata trucking-payments unit

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The next step for trucking industry payment providers is tapping the full benefit of available data streams as they upgrade from decades-old paper-based payment systems to cloud-driven mobile apps.

FleetCor’s Comdata payments unit has hired Visa business payments veteran Justin King as its new senior vice president of product and innovation. Drawing on years of experience managing commercial and small-business card operations at various companies including Visa, U.S. Bank and grocery giant Albertsons, King sees opportunities to help large and small truck fleets improve efficiencies across their operations.

“I don’t see this just as a payments business, but as a way to use data to help trucking firms cut costs, improve security and protect against fraud,” King said.

King has his work cut out for him, because wringing profits out of tight margins in the fleet card niche is made harder by the steadily rising competition from rivals like WEX.

Though Comdata was a pioneer in payments technology—the Brentwood, Tenn.-based firm began processing commercial payments 50 years ago—technology has moved fast in recent years.

One area where King hopes to gain an advantage is by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve Comdata’s tools for analyzing fleets’ spending on fuel and services. He also believes payments data could drive broader business insights.

“I look at the transportation industry and I see hundreds of payment flows that happen across this market where we can innovate in new ways and capture new capabilities to go beyond legacy services like fleet cards and driver payroll,” he said.

Comdata has been migrating users of the company’s 50-year-old Comchek reimbursement product to a new, more versatile mobile version.

“Comchek is one of the oldest and most antiquated processes in the payments industry, but we’re getting a lot more people to use the mobile approach. But not everyone is willing yet to accept the future,” King said.

Comdata’s OnRoad payment card, introduced last year, is also seeing steady adoption. The card works as a credit card on Comdata’s proprietary network and also as a Mastercard debit card that enables drivers to spend funds advanced by employers.

One area that’s not causing King any stress is the upcoming EMV liability shift for petroleum retailers, which goes into effect in October of next year, because Comdata's counterfeit card fraud rates are virtually nil.

“Our proprietary fuel card for fleets runs on a closed-loop network with a fraud rate so low it’s about one-tenth the amount of what I’ve seen in other commercial-card programs,” King said.

As more of Comdata’s transactions shift to mobile and cloud-based platforms, capabilities powered by big data will expand, according to King.

“As one of the oldest disruptors in this space, we were into fintech before fintech was cool, and now we plan on doing it all over again to remove friction across the shipping and carrier business,” he said.

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